Courant – Canton Officials Look At Paramedics For Ambulance Service

By | January 21, 2014

Hartford Courant – Town officials are revisiting the idea of upgrading the volunteer ambulance company to a paramedic level of service, a little more than a year after the idea was explored but then shelved.

The Canton Volunteer Fire & EMS Department has asked for $8,000 to study what it would take to have the ambulance service provide paramedic assistance. Right now, the department provides what is called an advanced emergency medical technician level; paramedic is the next one up.

Fire department officials have told the town they are worried that the state will no longer license or train EMTs, and say the ambulance service would then have to choose between a basic emergency medical technician level of service or paramedic.

In the fall of 2012, a study committee appointed by the board of selectmen issued a report on the town ambulance service. Among its recommendations was that the service move to a paramedic level. But that was not done at the time, in part because it was considered too expensive. Now the issue is back in front of local leaders.

“We’re in the same place now that we were back then,” First Selectman Richard Barlow said about the renewed discussion of the town ambulances.

Paramedic service in town is currently handled by the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington. Fire Chief Richard Hutchings said that he is happy with the service from UConn but that now is a good time to look at options.

“We want to look at our options and get some data on what it would cost to implement a paramedic level of service and be ahead of the curve,” Hutchings said. He said that, in addition to the cost, a study would look at how best to implement a paramedic service in town.

The selectmen will consider the fire department’s request when they meet on Wednesday. Barlow said he is willing to listen to the fire department’s request and hear the opinions of others involved in the fire and ambulance service. But he said he is not convinced that the state will stop supporting the advanced emergency medical technician certification.

“I think doing that would cause chaos among municipalities,” he said. “I don’t see this as a crisis that we have to respond to immediately.”

Hutchings said any move by the state to stop supporting the advanced emergency medical technician certification would have be approved by the legislature. But he said it would be good to be prepared in case it happens.

Barlow also said $8,000 may not be enough to pay for the study that the fire department wants to do.

The selectmen meet at 7 p.m. in the community center.