On Wednesday, February 28th, South County Ambulance hosted a symposium to address pressing issues faced by the Fire & EMS communities on Long Island. This event, which was co-sponsored by the Nassau & Suffolk Fire Districts Legislative Committee and Fire News was designed to provide information about recent actions taken, and those under consideration by NYS. In attendance were 163 persons who collectively represented over 74 different emergency service agencies from Nassau and Suffolk, making this the largest Bi-County forum ever held for this purpose. That night those in attendance were addressed by four speakers: Ryan Greenberg, Chief of NYS EMS, Donald Corkery, President of NYS Fire Districts Association, Matt Zukowski, Professor of Paramedicine Suffolk Community College, and Gregory C. Miglino Jr. Chief of South Country Ambulance.

Topics for the night included the recent adoption by the NYS SEMSCO to sunset the EMT-CC in July of 2027, proposed NYS DOL PESH changes that would mirror NFPA & OSHA 1910 rules changes, and Ambulance Billing.

The main topic for our EMS provider agencies was an action taken by the NYS SEMSCO.  The NYS SEMSCO is an advisory group that provides recommendations to the NYS Department of Health Commissioner on EMS matters. This February the group voted to eliminate the continued credentialing of the EMT-CC. If allowed to stand, this recommendation would further reduce the number of ALS providers available in Nassau and Suffolk, which is already experiencing a critical shortage. The EMT-CC has been a vital position for Fire and EMS agencies to provide ALS to their communities for over 45 years.

In the firefighting community, the federally adopted OSHA changes to CFR 29 ~1910.156, which are under consideration for adoption by the NYS Department of Labor Commissioner, would place even more burdens on our volunteer firefighters. These new regulations would almost double the training time for volunteer firefighters while imposing costly program demands on Fire Districts.

Lastly, the issue of Ambulance Billing was discussed, and many myths dispelled.  In April of 2022 Governor Hochul signed into law a bill that allows fire departments in NYS the opportunity to bill for ambulance services. This had been sought for many years by fire agencies who also provide EMS. In the bill was a sunset clause that if not renewed would terminate the billing ability of fire departments in April of 2026. Such an action would have a negative impact on fire districts and companies that are deploying those funds to bolster their EMS response.

Taken independently or collectively, the issues discussed have the potential to negatively affect the Fire & EMS service in our communities. Such changes come with a heavy burden on our taxpayers, while also further eroding the volunteer system in our two counties and across NYS. The Nassau & Suffolk Volunteer Fire and EMS system is considered one of largest such systems in the world, with over 20,000 volunteers from 180+ agencies.