Tioga County EMS conducts study on current system, determining areas for improvement
WAVERLY (WBNG) -- The Tioga County Office of Emergency Services hosted its first of two public information meetings Wednesday to go over the results of a study conducted on the state of its EMS system.
In November 2021, Tioga County Legislature and Office of Emergency Services used outside assistance to conduct the study -- gathering information on how its EMS system is performing and how the system can improve as a whole.
“We recognized that there were changes within EMS that were going to affect the future. So, we contacted our consultant to look at how we are operating at this time and what some options would be as the EMS services change towards the future,” said Tioga County Emergency Services Director Mike Simmons. “We’re just trying to make sure that we can provide EMS services to the public reliably and in a reasonable amount of time.”
Paul Bishop of the Center for Governmental Research conducted the study, collecting data from the last four years. Bishop said he conducted about 20 interviews, gathered information from comparable counties, and conducted a survey among the EMS providers.
“When we asked providers how they felt about their agency, how they felt about what they’re doing and their job -- majority of respondents identified professionalism and equipment as the most important strengths of their agency,” said Bishop.
However, Bishop said some significant weaknesses identified in the survey included elected and municipal leadership, internal communications and staffing. He said staffing was identified as the county’s weakness by a majority of providers.
“Across New York State, we’ve seen a 27% drop in the number of certified EMS providers. In this county, there was a 42% drop,” he said. “A drop by 42% in five years, that is dramatic.”
The survey also found that EMS providers were concerned with the outdated radio equipment, inconsistent dispatch information, and delays on re-toning that can cause issues with timely responses to medical emergencies.
Bishop also found that each community in Tioga County works independently with its own EMS system, and coordination at the county level needs to improve.
He shared a list of options to help make improvements to the EMS system, such as evaluating the need for staffing in Emergency Communications, creating a full-time EMS Coordinator position, improving Emergency Medical Dispatch utilization, establishing performance goals, reducing both re-tone time intervals and call processing times, and implementing an EMS retention task force.
“We need to do something to incentivize volunteers to stay in this profession, stay active and stay engaged,” said Bishop. “We need to make sure that our paid EMS providers are sticking around in this career, that they feel like they have a career path, feel like they are welcomed and supported in their communities, and that they’re paid well. We need to make sure that whatever is incentivizing our volunteers to begin with -- we’re able to continue to do it and we’re able to support them going forward.”
Simmons said last month, the study was presented to Tioga County Legislature. He said Tioga County EMS plans to meet with the legislature again to go over the results, and what the next steps are moving forward.
“I expect they’ve had time to review it now, and I expect at our next round of meetings they’ll have some questions,” said Simmons. “We’ll have to determine what we’re going to do in the future after we start the conversations with the legislature.”
A second public meeting will be held to go over the study Thursday, Aug. 25 at 6 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Owego Apalachin Central School District Auditorium, located at 1 Sheldon Guile Blvd.
The meeting will also be available on Zoom for those who cannot attend in person, contact Debora Stubecki at StubeckiD@tiogacountyny.gov for the link.
People can view the full study and its results here.