BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — An Erie County-run ambulance service will start taking calls this Monday. Officials say the goal is to help relieve the strain on volunteer companies in the Southtowns.
This comes after plans for the new service were announced back in spring.
“This new service will be a safety net for emergency calls with a goal of reducing emergency medical transport time, supporting ambulance and fire volunteers and improving health outcomes,” the Erie County Department of Health said.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said in his 2023 State of Erie County Address that the county planned to purchase five ambulances, as well as hire EMTs and paramedics.
“If you live in the City of Buffalo, if you live in some of the suburbs, if you call and need an ambulance service it’s there very quickly,” Poloncarz said. “But if you do that in some of our more rural communities, especially in the Southtowns of Erie County and here in ski country, you can wait a long time before an ambulance shows up.”
In the Town of Colden, Supervisor Jim Depasquale said their volunteer company only has four basic EMTs, but no paramedics. Many others in the department are also close to retirement; these are examples of the “gaps” in emergency services.
“As the assistant chief, when we get to a scene and I don’t know what EMS is going to show up, that’s heart wrenching, ” Depasquale said. “Now we’re going to have the availability to get that care to the person in a more expedited manner, and to know we have help behind us.”
Deputy Commissioner of Erie County’s Emergency Medical Services Division Greg Gill said there will be no changes to residents in need when they call 911 for help. Behind the scenes, dispatch will call the primary response area, and if they’re not available, then the mutual aid company is notified.
“If they’re not available, then they have the opportunity to call our dispatcher,” Gill said.
During non-emergency hours, Gill said the crews will go to senior centers and school districts to speak with people about health and safety services.
Two ambulances and two fly cars will be ready to go starting this Monday. In the coming months, an additional five ambulances will be added to the fleet.