The Great Neck Vigilant Fire Company called Tuesday for mayors on the peninsula to hold a public meeting to discuss proposals to have Northwell Health replace the fire company in providing ambulance services.
“As an unwavering community partner for more than 100 years, Vigilant Fire Company has always prioritized the safety and well-being of our fellow neighbors above all else,” said Josh Forst, chief of the Vigilant Fire Company. “With the proposed shift in emergency assistance, we are troubled that the mayors are valuing a slight price cut over a significant difference in response time.”
“We here at Vigilant won’t accept a price tag on the health of our families and neighbors, and as residents we demand a public meeting to discuss this vital issue,” Forst added.
In October, members of the fire company voted to authorize the board to consider billing residents’ insurance for ambulance services after receiving requests from the village
David Weiss, chairman of the fire company’s Board of Trustees, said initial discussions revolved around billing for ambulance services, but some villages are now considering changing its provider to Northwell Health.
Weiss said Northwell’s ambulance service would not be able to sufficiently handle the number and frequency of calls Vigilant receives.
According to the fire company, Vigilant responds to almost 2,000 EMS-related calls per year.
“The question is, what is [Northwell] promising the peninsula?” he asked. “If it’s only one ambulance, when that second call comes out, where is it coming from?”
Forst said a change in EMS provider “runs the risk of putting the lives of residents in danger” because Northwell would not have as quick a response time as the fire company.
“Based on the frequency and distance of calls we receive every day, it is not plausible for an EMS provider located outside of our service area to deliver the level of service the Great Neck community has grown to expect,” he said. “We provide residents with a 24/7 capacity to respond to multiple calls at once with trained professionals equipped to provide the finest possible care.”
According to the fire company, Vigilant has 18 New York State-certified Advanced Life Support Technicians, 39 state-certified EMTs and a partnership with the 111 state-certified United States Merchant Marine Academy EMTs.
Weiss said he was unsure of what the motive is to change EMS provider.
“The aggravating part is the excuses that they’re giving are not valid excuses,” he said.
Village officials in the past have cited the potential decrease in taxes for residents and improved safety as reasons for considering having Vigilant bill for ambulance services.
Efforts to reach village officials for comment were unavailing.
“All the meetings we have had with the villages have been transparent and up front, we have done everything they asked us to investigate regarding billing and we’ve answered all their questions,” Weiss said. “And they just don’t see that there’s a public health risk going on.”
“When somebody dies because an ambulance can’t get there, it’s going to be a problem,” he added.