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Fourth Time A Charm? Proposal To Help Small Towns Run Ambulance Services To Be Refiled



A  bill designed to make it easier for small towns to staff volunteer ambulances has failed in the Massachusetts legislature for the third session in a row. But a Berkshire lawmaker says he’s not dropping the issue.

State law requires ambulances to be staffed with two certified emergency medical technicians. But according to state Representative Paul Mark, it’s hard for small towns to find volunteers who are certified and can work part-time.

Mark said Monday that he plans to reintroduce a bill this month that would allow towns with fewer than 2500 people to staff an ambulance with one EMT and one first responder, such as a firefighter or a police officer. Mark said they have the training to back up an EMT.

“If people think that sounds  unsafe what’s really unsafe is, if you live in a town like Hawley it’s about 45 minutes — if not longer — to get to the nearest  hospital,” Mark said. “So by the time you get a professional crew sent out from a place like Greenfield or North Adams, I wouldn’t want to be the person waiting for emergency services.”

Last year, the bill was approved by two committees, but was never voted on by the full House or Senate.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health indicated opposition to the proposal.

“[D]ay-to-day staffing for basic life support ambulances with two emergency medical technicians is the standard of care for all ambulance services in the state, and we believe this is in the best interest of our our residents and anyone in Massachusetts who may need an ambulance,” said Tom Lyons, the department’s director of communications. “We are always available to work on strategies with communities to meet this standard of care.”