Updated 06/08/2012 04:57 PM
Proposed law could end ambulance legal struggle
Utica's ambulance service was denied a Certificate of Need from both regional and state boards and a court ruling overturning those decisions might be challenged. Sarah Blazonis tells us how fire officials say a proposed law could put an end to the court battle for good.
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UTICA, N.Y. -- It's been five years since the City of Utica's ambulance service was first denied a Certificate of Need by the Regional Emergency Medical Services Council. Fire officials say it's an unfair process since representatives from competing services sit on those councils.
"Who have vested interest, who are for profit, who we're actually digging into their money," said Utica Fire Captain Mark Ambrose.
That's why fire and city officials are throwing their support behind an Assembly bill that would allow their EMS service to operate as long as they meet state rules and regulations. The bill has already gained support from a range of groups like the State Firemen's Association and Unshackle Upstate.
But it's not only the Utica Fire Department that would be affected. Right now, all local governments that offer first responder or EMS services have to go through an automatic two-year review process, a step the legislation would get rid of.
"They would apply to the New York State Bureau of EMS and they would be granted an operating certificate," said Ambrose.
If it passes both houses of the legislature, it would put an end to the legal saga. If not, the appellate court's most recent decision could be appealed.
"The Attorney General's Office has asked for an interpretation of the third department's decision to where does the City of Utica go? Do we start back at day one?" Ambrose asked.
The department would like to see the drawn out process cut short.
"We recently went through some cuts, we've got to reorganize here, and it just moves everything along faster. It lifts the cloud from hanging over us that we don't know what's going to happen in the future," said Utica Assistant Fire Chief George Clark.
But while a version of the bill was introduced in the State Senate, there's no timeline for when that could be up for discussion.
The Assembly version of the bill is being sponsored by Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi. That could be voted on as early as Monday.
A spokesman for Senator Joseph Griffo says the Senate version has been amended twice and he has yet to decide whether to support it. It's unclear if the Senate will be able to approve it before the end of this session.