Marbletown First Aid goes “partly-paid” to fill volunteer gap

(photo: Roy Gumpel)

MARBLETOWN – The Marbletown First Aid Unit, Inc. has converted from an all-volunteer model to partly paid staffing to ensure the agency can meet the emergency medical services needs of the community.

Unable to muster sufficient volunteer staff to respond to emergency calls, the agency’s board has begun to hire paid EMS staff to supplement volunteers. As a result, the board will formally ask the Marbletown Town Board for an additional $20,000 to cover the costs.

The traditional annual municipal contribution of $40,000 had been cut in half. Because of the new hiring, the first aid unit will ask the town to increase the funding in the 2020 budget. In the meantime, the board will launch a community conversation to explore the long-term approach to EMS and ambulance services.

The organization’s volunteers were dispatched to 625 emergency calls last year, but were only able to respond to 60 percent in recent months, down from 75 percent in recent years.

(photo: Roy Gumpel)

“Thanks to the 911 mutual-aid network, response to all calls has remained at 100 percent,” said Rebecca Horner, board chairwoman, who said they plan to increase their response rate to 80 percent through the party-paid staff.

Shortage of volunteers is not a Marbletown First Aid Unit problem. “There has been a decline in EMS volunteers nationwide because of changing demographic, cultural, social and economic conditions as well as the aging of our population,” said Vice Chairman Jason Hurwitz. “A need for many people to hold multiple jobs has contributed to the decline in volunteers for public safety services, especially those with EMS certifications.” He said the Marbletown unit “reflects this nationwide decline in volunteers.”

To cover the post of the paid staffers, who will be available 16 hours a day, the board of directors has reallocated $138,500 from 2019 to the 2020 budget. Those funds will come from projected insurance reimbursements, with assistance from the annual community fund drive and municipal contributions.

For the long term, Horner said they will discuss the feasibility of replacing the annual municipal contributions with an ambulance improvement district under town law.

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