Monday evening’s city budget talks took a step back in time, slightly dé·jà vu in reverse when it came to the city fire and police departments.
City Councilman Paul Viele suggested the possibility of having one ambulance on reserve just in city limits.
“For police and fire reserves, I want to see some research on response times for the (Mercy EMS) ambulance. If they're not good, I’d like to maybe see if we can get one ambulance for the city, that just takes care of the city limits. Its response time isn't that good,” Viele said during the workshop at City Hall. “There's one incident, the kid got bitten by a bee. And there was no ambulance, and they throw the kid in the police car to bring him to the hospital.”
“We’ve got to have a backup pickup truck thing for the hospital. You know, I don't want to spend $250,000 on an ambulance. But just something to keep someone alive at the hospital. If your wife is having a heart attack, and there’s not an ambulance, you’re going to be pissed off.”
City Manager Rachael Tabelski said that she could check with Mercy EMS to see if some type of arrangement could be made to house an ambulance within city limits. Mercy has a current contract with Genesee County to provide ambulance service countywide, which means that wherever an emergency occurs, the ambulance responds to that municipality within the county.
“There is the option for the city to contract for one soul ambulance from Mercy to be staged in the city at all times. What that costs, what negotiations are, I don't know. And opening negotiations in this manner probably isn't the best way to get a good price, because now it's public,” she said. “But I think we have a lot more to explore. I don't disagree with you, that if an ambulance isn't available for our families in the city of Batavia, that's a severe issue, or if our kids were out in sports fields. And that poor kid, I can't even imagine.”
The service throughout the county is strapped as it is, Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said.
“I mean, the county is struggling with staffing and ambulance and shortages. They're struggling now. So I don't think it's by design, I think it's just manpower, we'd have to find out,” Jankowski said. “But I knew they were struggling. They couldn't even get in the volunteers.”
The dé·jà vu factor here is that the city at one time operated its own ambulance service within the fire department. As a cost-saving measure in 2008, a prior City Council and city management agreed to shut down city ambulance operations in lieu of a private company taking over the service.
Councilman Bob Bialkowski recalled how “complicated” the process was at the time, and it involved fire department staff and public protests and concern. The city cannot simply operate its own ambulance due to health certifications, he and city management said, but perhaps an ambulance could be housed inside city limits if Mercy agreed to such an agreement.
Tabelski said that both the police and fire chief can talk more about this topic at a future meeting, as, per a related report, there is a “critical lack of services from ambulance not only here but across the state,” she said.
Top Photo: City Councilman Paul Viele, and Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. talk about the 2023-24 budget during a workshop Monday at City Hall, and above, City Manager Rachael Tabelski, left, Assistant Manager Erik Fix, far right, city staff and council members work through the proposed budget line by line. Photos by Joanne Beck.