BATH, N.Y. (WETM) – Steuben County will work to improve 911 emergency services in light of what the legislature described as short-staffed and sometimes inaccessible volunteer ambulance companies.

The Steuben County Legislature announced on May 12 that it would begin looking at ways to improve the emergency response in the 1,391-square-mile county. In the announcement, the legislature explained that many local volunteer ambulance companies are understaffed or have older, retiring staff. In an emergency, this means that many companies are unable to respond because the volunteers are at work or dealing with family needs, the announcement added.

This, in turn, means that paid services have to respond from farther away. For example, Hornell’s services respond to municipalities as far away as Jasper, Greenwood, and Canisteo, “adding precious
time to the response, an unexpected cost for the patient, and potentially removing a service in the city”, the announcement explained.

“We’re not going to say we’re not coming,” Hornell Mayor John Buckley told the Public Safety and Corrections Committee. “We can’t do that.”

Legislator Fred Potter from Troupsburg said the uncertainty of ambulance response causes concern for patients, as well. “They don’t know they’re going to be charged until they get the bill,” Potter said. “It’s getting so their question is ‘When do I call an ambulance? When do I not?’”

One possible solution the legislature and other parts of the state are looking at is creating contracts between municipalities that have paid services and those that would use those services.

Legislature Chairman Scott Van Etten of Caton also said having EMT trained Sheriff’s Deputies, while a “life-saver”, isn’t enough. He pointed out the inequity in cost for different municipalities.

“You’re paying $2 million a year, and the other areas are getting it for free,” Van Etten told Buckley. “That’s
not right.”

In response, Buckley said the City of Hornell is “happy to do it” because its crews have the necessary trained staff and equipment, but he added that other towns and villages “need to do something to offset the cost” for Hornell.