Service stops response to some calls

GLOVERSVILLE – Since early May, the Ambulance Service of Fulton County has stopped responding to lift- assistance and non-injury calls in the city.

The Fire Department has been picking up that responsibility, but city officials say they are exploring who is legally responsible for that duty.

A letter signed by ambulance service Interim Manager Timothy Delaney says after firefighters get on the scene and find it “medically necessary to respond,” they can dispatch the ambulance service to the location along with the nature of the call.

City officials expressed concerns with the sudden change during a Common Council meeting Tuesday. Officials said this leaves a gray area as to who is legally responsible to take on the duty.

“Normally, we don’t respond to lift assist or non-injury calls unless it’s a special circumstance,” Fire Chief Beth Whitman-Putnam said during the meeting. “We are trained and have the equipment to respond to these calls, but we normally didn’t because the ambulance service took care of them. The issue with this letter is they are saying they are not doing those calls and they want us to do them.”

She said the department has picked up the responsibility to make sure that city residents are getting the services they need.

The fire chief said the number of these types of calls is low, but the change is a concern for her department because it remains unclear who is actually responsible.

City Attorney Anthony Casale said he doesn’t believe the city has any “affirmative obligation” to take over the responsibility.

“Tim Delaney is a smart man and there is no money involved in that service,” 5th Ward Councilman Jay Zarrelli said in response to the issue.

Mayor Dayton King said the additional responsibility could risk the city’s personnel being injured while on duty.

“When you are talking about lifting people, typically guys and girls that are bigger in size, it can throw your back out,” King said. “That’s a tough injury, so I don’t know that I want to subject our firefighters to more than fighting fires.”

He said in some circumstances, city residents use the non-emergency calls as a means of getting a free ride to the hospital.

“It’s a tough spot they put us in,” the mayor said. “For now, we are going to [respond].”

Neither Delaney nor other representatives of the Ambulance Service of Fulton County returned phone calls seeking comment for this story.