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Letter: The EMS Crisis

Since the beginning of this year over 1,000 Hicksville residents have called for an EMS response to their home or business. The Hicksville Fire Department (HFD) has responded to 616 of these calls, 122 (20 percent) of which were necessitated because “No Nassau County ambulance was available.”

Many of these calls were for either actual or perceived life or death emergencies. When a Hicksville resident calls the county for an ambulance and there are none available, the call is immediately transferred to the Hicksville Fire Department for a response. In a life or death situation this transfer delay will further close any survival window that resident may have had.

County Executive Thomas Suozzi is running for re-election this year. If at some Town Hall meeting Executive Suozzi is asked about this EMS disparity he may state that he is surprised by these numbers and he will look into it. Executive Suozzi should neither be surprised nor will he look into it. On Feb. 16, 2006 Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman warned the county and Executive Suozzi in an audit of the NCPD Ambulance Bureau that an EMS crisis was developing. Comptroller Weitzman plainly stated within the audit, due to the decreasing numbers of volunteer firefighters within the county, plus the growth in the county’s elderly population, it was imperative (his words) that the NCPD EMS Bureau has the necessary (increased) resources to respond effectively to emergency ambulance calls. In the three years and seven months since this audit was released, Executive Suozzi has done nothing to prevent this crisis. He has done nothing because he knows that you, the county residents, are unaware of the danger of this EMS crisis that he has allowed to develop and grow. When any government official assumes office, their paramount duty must be for the safety of those they serve; everything else must follow. You cannot educate nor provide a park for a dead child.

While we only have access to the Hicksville Nassau County EMS unavailability figures, Comptroller Weitzman’s EMS crisis warning was for the entire county. With 122 missed Hicksville calls alone, adding all the county fire district (71 departments) numbers together for the first eight months of this year, the number of times county residents have called for a county ambulance, and there were none available, will number in the thousands. The Nassau County EMS crisis is here, through management incompetence and total indifference.

On Feb. 12, 2008 the Hicksville Board of Fire Commissioners wrote to Executive Suozzi and pleaded with him to increase the county’s resources serving our community. The response back was in essence, “what you have is what you have, there will be no increase in EMS resources serving the Hicksville community.”

In August of this year, to help alleviate this crisis in our community, the Hicksville Fire Department initiated a new HFD EMS recruitment program. Twenty-one of your neighbors to date have applied to become EMS members of the department and voluntarily serve. The applicants’ training and equipment are being provided for this program. This service and a new state-of-the-art HFD ambulance should be online in the near future.

Bob Manson

Commissioner

Hicksville Fire District