State withdraws permission for Schoharie County group to train EMTs
SCHOHARIE COUNTY First-responders are trying to rescue a decades-old tradition of training ambulance workers in Schoharie County.
Citing a dozen deficiencies identified in an audit, the state Health Department in October withdrew training privileges allowing the Schoharie County Ambulance & Rescue Squad Association, to train emergency medical technicians.
Association President Karen Cuccinello said the association has offered courses for emergency medical technicians for about 40 years. The schooling prepares ambulance workers for a certification test given by the state, and that certification is required before going out in the field.
The program ran into difficulty in 2011 when flooding from Tropical Storm Irene inundated the Schoharie County Office Building’s basement, where courses were held, prompting a quick move that drew state disapproval.
An Oct. 18 letter from the Health Department’s Bureau of Emergency Medical Services indicates the association was cited for deficiencies in 2010 and didn’t fix those issues.
“This most recent audit has found that little has changed with the current administration and in fact sees an overall decline of the course sponsor’s ability to provide the appropriate education for students to become certified EMS providers,” the letter states.
The Health Department told the group it never made use of new documents and paperwork deemed a requirement after the 2010 audit, and a plan of correction was never completed.
The state criticized the lack of a permanent location to hold classes and alleged leadership failed to act on complaints by students who said their asthma and respiratory problems were worsened because of the new training site.
Following the flood, the group moved classes to the basement of a local church, which members contend they cleaned up and dried out with a dehumidifier.
The state claimed gear employed during the classes was being borrowed from ambulances that were in service, but the association contends it wasn’t using equipment needed for emergencies, but rather extra gear their members were able to provide.
Cuccinello said the association responded to the state, indicating plans to fix the issues, but they’ve heard nothing back.
“We are hoping to hear from them that they would work with us to keep rolling,” Cuccinello said.
The group began an online petition drive to garner support and gathered 136 signatures at www.change.org.
Certifications can be obtained from SUNY Cobleskill, according to Howard Huth, director of the college’s Paramedic Program. The college provided a site for association courses in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene.
Huth said those in fear of losing their certifications should contact the college, which will make arrangements.
“There’s no reason for any Schoharie County EMT to not certify because of this,” Huth said.