N.Y. Fire Department Considering City-owned Ambulance Service
Dec. 01—ALBANY—An oft controversial and regularly discussed topic of in-house ambulance services is being quietly considered among Albany officials.
Mayor Kathy Sheehan's chief of staff Brian Shea said the city created a committee of city Fire Department officials and command staff, management and budget to determine whether the Albany residents would be better served with ambulance services provided by the fire department.
Shea said the committee met for the first time in August.
City Budget Director Michael Wheeler said considerations are at the beginning stages, and nothing would be done in 2018.
"This year we are looking at the revenue opportunities and what are the risks," he said. "We're all working on this together to see if it works for the city."
The possibility of a city-run ambulance has been talked about for years, but the administration says there are no records of actual studies on the topic. Critics say service operation would be cost prohibitive, but supporters say it would generate enough revenue to offset the costs.
During his run for mayor in 2009, former Councilman Corey Ellis—now Common Council president-elect—called for a study of ambulance services in Albany, including the possibility of city-run services.
Mohawk Ambulance Service typically provides transportation, but city firefighters are the first to arrive on the scene of medical emergencies, administering basic or advanced medical services. For the firefighters' advanced life support services, Albany receives nearly $500,000 in revenue annually from Mohawk Ambulance.
When Albany firefighters arrive on the scene, they're accompanied with a ladder truck and fire truck. Mohawk Ambulance is contracted with the city to provide transport, with the cost of those services billed directly to the consumer, or insurance company. A city-run ambulance service could eliminate the need for large fire apparatus to come to the scene, Wheeler said.
Communities like Watervliet and Troy have provided city-run ambulance services for years.
Troy Fire Chief Thomas Garrett said the Rennselaer County city has had in-house ambulance services since 1995, and citizens love it.
"They get excellent care, and we get letters all the time praising these guys," he said.
Troy officials said the revenue it garners from recouping the costs of the services from insurance companies fund the program.
"The revenue that the city brings in through the ambulance service does pay for the costs associated with running it," said John Salka, deputy director of public information for Troy.