KINGSTON, N.Y. — City lawmakers unanimously approved a transfer of nearly $860,000 from the city’s fund balance to the Kingston Fire Department to hire additional paramedics and EMTs to staff the city-run ambulance service.
Lawmakers voted 9-0 at the February Common Council Meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 6 to shift $859,595,56 from the city’s fund balance into fire department coffers to hire eight firefighters, including three paramedics and five emergency medical technicians, or EMTs.
Kingston Fire Department Chief Chris Rea said the paramedics and EMTs will be hired from the city’s Civil Service list allowing new candidates to be hired and trained quickly.
Mayor Steve Noble said previously that as of Jan. 30 the city had one Advanced Life Support unit and one basic life support ambulance up and running, with the capability of pressing a third ambulance used weekdays for the city’s Mobile Mental Health Unit into service for emergency calls when needed.
Rea said Tuesday night that the city is already working to bring a second ALS ambulance online. Rea said the department has already ordered the needed equipment to outfit the unit. However, he could not offer a concrete date for when the second ALS unit will go into service.
Once the second ALS unit is up and running it will operate 24/7, Noble said previously.
Rea said the department has responded to more than 400 calls since the fire department took over as ambulance provider within city lines from Empress EMS on Jan. 1. He said the service is going off without a hitch with the department being able to meet all calls with a response time of approximately three minutes.
Common Council Majority Leader Reynolds Scott-Childress expressed admiration for the Kingston Fire Department’s work in assuming ambulance service.
“We were being held over the barrel by a private company,” Scott-Childress said speaking of Empress, which previously handled ambulance service in the city until the end of the year.
He reiterated that once the city gets a system up and running to bill patients’ insurance, that will help to cover a significant amount of the costs incurred with the new ambulance service.
Scott-Childress said at Monday’s caucus meeting that a consultant is to address the billing issues along with helping the city hone in on how many people the fire department needs to hire in the long run to staff the service.
Noble has noted on multiple occasions that ambulance service will not be denied to those without insurance.
During a presentation at January’s Public Safety Committee meeting on Jan. 24, Empress EMS Executive Director Robert Stuck said the company could have provided a dedicated ambulance service just like the Kingston Fire Department is now running.
“The trucks don’t leave the city,” he said, adding the company already had a large “turnout” facility in the city and has a relationship with HealthAlliance Hospital parent WMC Health that extends to all of WMC Health’s facilities.
Empress has a long history of providing quality ambulance service and quality care, Stuck told the committee.