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Wayne County set to launch ambulance service

Wayne County is set to launch a countywide ambulance program this summer, which is expected to be a relief for some of its rural communities. For John Wiltsie, who has worked for the Town of Lyons Ambulance for 16 years, it’s a step forward in providing critical services to those in need. “Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always wanted to do fire, then I got into EMS,” Wiltsie said. “It’s about saving lives.”

However, the Town of Lyons Ambulance service has struggled over the years, with Supervisor Jim Brady explaining the financial challenges that have come with ambulance service. “If you broke even, you had a good year. The last four or five years, well, six-hundred-sixty-some-odd thousand dollars uncollectable,” he said.

As a result, the service will be dissolving this summer.

Wayne County’s countywide ambulance service will be buying all the equipment and temporarily leasing the barn for the launch of the program. The move is expected to save rural communities like Lyons hundreds of thousands of dollars. “Over the last 20 years, we’ve lost approximately half of our emergency medical provider agencies. That’s devastating, especially in the eastern, more rural part of our county,” Wayne County Administrator Rick House said.

The initial $10 million plan will include six ambulances and three bases spread across the county by 2024. The director of emergency services, Jim Lee, emphasized that the county isn’t looking to replace any ambulance services hoping to stick around. “It’s not our goal to put other agencies out of business. It’s our goal to supplement the services that are out there now and to make the system better.”

The move comes at a time when the EMS industry is struggling with recruitment, mutual aid, and response times. “There’s a shortage in EMS all the way around,” Wiltsie said. “EMTs and paramedics now, they’re down a huge percentage in the area.” Wayne County believes the program is the best possible move. “If you’re having a heart attack or something like that, do you care what it says on the ambulance? As long as they’re there,” Brady said.