Grant helps rural ambulance service attract more first responders with advanced skills.
With a staff of just 18, the Hancock Ambulance Service stands ready to save lives every day, around the clock, across 164 square miles of Delaware County plus a sliver of Pennsylvania. This extremely rural region is many miles from the nearest trauma center. “We could have a 10-minute transport to the call scene, but then a 45-minute transport to Binghamton,” says Gina O’Boyle, the ambulance service’s business manager.
Heavily-traveled Route 17 runs through the Town of Hancock, and local streams, hiking trails and other attractions draw visitors to spots where there’s a risk of serious injury. All this boosts demand for emergency services and makes it especially important to have skilled personnel on duty.
The Hancock Ambulance Service is the only ambulance squad in the Town of Hancock, and one of only two in Delaware County that uses paid staff. But, just as Hancock founded this service in 2015 to fill a void, O’Boyle predicts that more communities will convert to paid emergency medical technicians (EMTs) in the coming years.
“The volunteers just aren’t there,” O’Boyle explains. “The population is dwindling. Employers can’t afford to let the volunteers leave, and employees can’t afford to take three hours off for a call”—the time it takes to drive a patient to Binghamton and return.
As a rule, the Community Foundation doesn’t fund ambulance services. There are just too many of them, all doing crucial work. But we made an exception for Hancock, because we saw a chance to make a real difference with a well-placed investment.
The service used our $12,000 general operating grant to raise the pay for its advanced life support personnel, give them one paid week off per year and start a retirement plan with a 2 percent match. These are the first benefits the ambulance service has ever been able to offer EMTs.
The grant will support those items for just a short time, of course. But it has helped the service attract a few more advanced life support professionals, who are trained to provide more critical care than basic life support staff. “We can bill at a higher rate for advanced life support calls,” O’Boyle says. Those revenues will, in turn, help the ambulance service sustain the higher pay and benefits.
You could say we provided a jump start—a quick boost to keep Hancock’s medical emergency responders on the road.