Hinchey bill to study challenges facing rural ambulance agencies approved by state legislature

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ALBANY — Legislation to create a task force to study the challenges facing emergency medical service providers in rural areas of the state was given final approval by the legislature and is now headed to the governor’s desk. It was sponsored in the Senate by Michelle Hinchey (D, Saugerties).

She said rural EMS providers in New York, often sustained by volunteers, continue to face distinct challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has only made worse. Financial hardship and volunteer shortages have pushed many rural providers to the breaking point. In recent years, more than two dozen EMS providers in New York have closed, further limiting access for rural residents.

If signed into law, the 12-member task force would be charged with examining reimbursement structures and other challenges that have accelerated the rural EMS crisis, while also identifying long-term solutions to keep these services available to residents across the state, and reporting those recommendations to the legislature.

“I represent communities that don’t have a local hospital — communities where residents have to travel more than an hour away to reach the nearest trauma center. This is a major challenge for our rural residents and our EMS providers are on the front lines, bridging the gaps in healthcare access,” said Hinchey. “But with extremely limited resources, many of our rural EMS providers have been forced to close their doors, leaving our communities without timely access to life-saving emergency care.”

She said the New York State Rural Ambulance Services Task Force “is our chance to get a comprehensive view of what is happening and an actionable set of recommendations to strengthen our EMS system.”