top of page

Kent is Last Town to Form Paid Ambulance Service

By Holly Crocco

The Town of Kent has hired an emergency medical services program coordinator to help form a paid ambulance service.

Councilman Chris Ruthven explained at the Feb. 20 Kent Town Board meeting that it is the consensus of the town and the two fire departments (Kent and Lake Carmel) that a paid ambulance service is needed, to work in tandem with the volunteer firefighters and EMTs.

“Although great, they’re volunteer services and we’re getting a lot of our calls that have to be responded to by outside towns,” he said.

The per diem coordinator will help the town handle the administrative side and legal aspects of having a paid ambulance program. “It’s just a lot to undertake, and to move this thing along,” said Ruthven.

Kent Fire Department Chief Matt Valente said that if EMTs are paid for their time, more will be available.

“In recent years, we’ve seen a decrease in the amount of certified (volunteer) EMTs, which is what you need on an ambulance to go out,” he said. “With that decrease, it’s making it hard for us to staff our ambulances, which makes us rely on neighboring towns – Carmel, Putnam Valley, the county – to get EMS services to our residents.”

Valente said the amount of time it takes to complete a certification course to become an EMT, in addition to the amount of time an EMT is out on a call, makes it difficult to find people who can make the commitment.

According to Valente, it takes members several minutes to get to the firehouse from their homes and several more to get to the scene. Then there is the assessment and treatment that takes place on-site before transporting the patient to a hospital or specialty medical center. Once the drop-off is made, the volunteer has to return to the firehouse to complete the required paperwork for the state.

This can sometimes take upwards of 2 hours, which is a difficult commitment for volunteers to make.

In addition, Valente said the farthest house in the district from the firehouse is 15 minutes away, but when a 9-1-1 call is made, volunteers first have to get to the firehouse from their homes, which could add another 10 minutes before a patient receives care.

If a paid ambulance is ready and waiting, it cuts down the response time.

“I think that overall, having an ambulance that’s staffed 24/7, 365 is going to improve the safety for town residents,” he said. “We are the last town to have a paid service… so I think this is definitely an improvement and a step in the right direction.”

While the town has formed incentives to attract more volunteers, such as scholarship opportunities, tax breaks and benefits for first-responders, and free training, the two departments haven’t seen much of a bump in participation.

“We did see a little bit of an increase, but nothing substantial to be able to staff that ambulance adequately to where it needs it,” said Valente.

Ruthven noted that the town can receive Medicaid reimbursement for ambulance runs, and work with the fire departments to secure equipment, reducing the cost of the paid service.

Kent Fire District Chairman Barry Sanel also voiced his support for having a paid ambulance service.

“We started out as a fire department, then we became an ambulance corps, and the ambulance is a majority of what we respond to,” he said. “We have excellent members… but right now it is very challenging.”


bottom of page