Ogdensburg confronts delays in ambulance response

OGDENSBURG. With several emembers in their 80s, the First Aid Squad is having trouble attracting full-time members.

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  • Resident Pat Sabourin says it is difficult for the First Aid Squad to get members.

  • Councilwoman Brenda O'Dell listens to residents. Photos by Vera Olinski


Resident Vicki Schroeder informed the Ogdensburg Council at its June 24 meeting that an ambulance had been unavailable for about 30 minutes due to returning from a previous run in Dover.

Officials and residents then discussed possible solutions to the problem.

Ogdensburg Police Chief Stephen Gordon said, it is a systemic problem throughout the whole state of New Jersey

Councilwoman Brenda O’Dell said the council should reach out to the county for help. She also said the state needs to loosen its requirements, She explained, the state now requires two EMTs on each ambulance call; and the classes are difficult to attend because they are scheduled all over three counties. The state needs to help make the process more streamlined, she said, so “the average, everyday citizen doesn’t think it is another full-time job.”

After more discussion, Councilman Anthony Nasisi recommended posting the first responder crisis situation and warning, if there are not enough community volunteers, the council will be forced to provide a paid service-resulting in an increase in taxes. Ultimately, he continued, “The best people to help are going to be your neighbors.”

Resident Pat Sabourin said the First Aid Squad is having a hard time getting members. She addeD several members “have hit the 80 mark and can’t do what we used to do.”

Mayor George Hutnick said training is more than 200 hours and even the paid services are having trouble. Additionally, he said, all first aid and fire department training is free, when one signs up for two years.

Schroeder said of her comments, “By no means was it an attack on the First Aid Squad,” and she appreciated all their volunteer work.

Councilwoman Rachel Slater said, “The way the state is going; it is going to be consolidated.”

Schroeder said, her example showed consolidation did not work. She said, “We have backup-to our backup-to our backup – this is a huge area to cover,” – and they could not get an ambulance.

Hutnick said five years ago, the state changed the rules. He added, the method of saving someone did not change.

Slater said the changes were more for liability insurance.

Gordon gave an example where they waited almost 25 minutes for a St. Claire’s ambulance. He said ethe population growth has outstripped what they can do with services – without stay-at-home mothers, and two people being required to work in order to support a household. If they have a paid crew, he said, either Ogdensburg funds it or contracts with St. Claire’s – Ogdensburg would only have priority when paying for it.

Hutnick said he would research and invite George Sabourin and the First Aid Squad to the next council meeting.

O’Dell said she would research when First Responders courses are scheduled.

Gordon suggested requesting the League of Municipalities approach the state to change the standards back to what they were, because, “This isn’t working. We can’t afford paid services.” Instead of having a minimum of two EMT’s riding on an ambulance, Gordon recommended having one EMT, one first responder, and the first responder could be the driver. Additionally, he recommended having everyone driver certified.

Slater recommended inviting Sussex County Freeholder Dawn Fantasia back to the next meeting.

Borough Clerk Robin Hough also explained, there is already a volunteer tuition program for both first aid and fire with Sussex Community College, up to $2,400. She said the council passed a resolution last year.

Resident Anastasia Schroeder said an area college student might have the time, and it would look good on a résumé.

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