The Town of Lyons had to make a difficult decision due to a loss of $615,586 from unpaid ambulance services. This loss is not unique to Lyons, as many municipal ambulance services throughout Wayne County and New York State are experiencing similar issues.
Decades ago, rural ambulance services were often performed by local funeral home directors who had the necessary vehicles for transporting medical victims. As medical services improved over time, patient care became a priority and ambulance services required certification and medical training. This led to a shift away from volunteer services and towards private, professional ambulance services.
Private ambulance services have had to increase wages for ambulance crews in order to attract and retain qualified personnel. This, combined with the cost of well-outfitted ambulances, has made it difficult for municipal ambulance services to compete.
Medicare and Medicaid, the U.S. health insurance programs for people age 65 and older and some people with certain disabilities or conditions, have limited coverage for ambulance services and require paperwork and time before services are reimbursed. Additionally, patient required fees often go unpaid, further exacerbating the financial burden for municipal ambulance services.
In response to these challenges, Wayne County municipalities have united several ambulance services into Western Wayne Ambulance, which serves the Towns of Marion and Walworth. The county has also implemented a non-transporting emergency medical services vehicle, also known as a fly-car, which has been critical in saving lives throughout the county.
A Wayne County Advisory Committee on ambulance service has proposed building a new ambulance building behind the Wayne County Nursing Home in the County Complex on Route 31 in Lyons, and another building in the Sodus area of Route 88 and 104, with plans to address eastern towns as well. These county-run services will replace most of the current individual municipal ambulance coverage, but will come at a cost to taxpayers. The county has already spent $1.5 million on the plans and ongoing costs will have to be addressed in the future.
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