ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB)- A handful of emergency services staff members from Niagara County were up early Wednesday, travelling to Albany to show their support for Mercy EMS.
In October of last year, the ambulance service submitted an application to the Big Lakes Regional Emergency Medical Services Council (REMSCO) for a Certificate of Need (CON) to operate in all of Niagara County.
In August of 2016, Mercy EMS obtained a CON to operate within the Town of Niagara, where American Medical Response (AMR) scaled back services in the area. County lawmakers then requested Mercy EMS expand to operate county-wide, arguing volunteer ambulance companies were overburdened and competing ambulance companies like AMR and Twin City had poor response times.
Big Lakes REMSCO granted the CON, but Twin City and AMR appealed the certified, sending the matter to an administrative law judge in Albany, who ruled in favor of Mercy EMS.
Wednesday, the State Emergency Medical Services Council (SEMSCO) took on the issue.
The motion put in place by REMSCO and recommended by an administrative law judge was upheld 22-2 in favor of Mercy EMS expanding to all of Niagara County.
A couple of council members voiced concerns.
“I’m very concerned about the precedent that this sets, should we grant a certificate for an entire county when in fact only a portion of the county demonstrated that there actually was need,” said council member Michael Mastrianni, representing the Volunteer Ambulance Community.
According to Niagara County’s EMS Coordinator Dr. Chad Shepherd, the proof of need is in response times, which suffered he said, due to AMR and Twin City scaling back resources.
“We’re seeing response times unfortunately sometimes 20, 30, 40 minutes before we get an ambulance or an EMT,” Shepherd told News 4.
Following Wednesday’s ruling, Director of Medical Operations for Mercy EMS said while the ruling is good news, Mercy EMS wants to work with competing providers.
“Our position at Mercy Flight is to again to work in collaboration. We want to see the ability to work together,” Donald Trzepacz Jr., said.
The CON is effective immediately.
Next week, Trzepacz will be meeting with county leaders to discuss Niagara’s ambulance needs and how best to serve them.
The City of Lockport, North Tonawanda, and Niagara Falls have existing contracts with either AMR or Twin City; those contracts will remain.