LACKAWAXEN TWP. - Lackawaxen EMS welcomed a new rig to its fleet last month. A 2018 customized Ford F450 with four-wheel drive; the ambulance has replaced the company’s oldest rig, a 2008 Ford.

Captain Michael Donovan explained that the tailored ambulance started as a typical pickup truck that was altered to fit the needs of the company.

An essential need of an ambulance is its ability to manage in all conditions and handle thousands of pounds at a time. Because of the immense weight put on the vehicle, Donovan said it can be “taxing” on the suspension system. The new rig though, has “liquid springs” that are able to “take a beating.” The top alone is “heavy” as it weighs 500 to 600 pounds since it is solid steel, to keep the rig low to the ground. Because of all that is required of the rig, Donovan said its an “extreme duty” vehicle, since it may be going fast, but have to stop suddenly, all the while carrying 6,700 pounds at a time.

To try and prevent mechanical issues, General Manager Michelle Thompson said the company keeps the rigs current and so, the two other rigs are 2011 and 2015 Chevys.

Inside the ambulance, Donovan said there is “ample” seating, with a bench, specific chairs and even children’s chairs in case a family has to be transported together.

The 2008 rig that was just traded in, had 83,000 miles and a different color scheme that earned a name of the “green machine” Thompson said. The new rig was approximately $209,000 unstocked. Once the equipment is in place, it’ll be 

worth $250,000 because the gear isn’t included. A stretcher alone is about $17,000 with a backboard ranging from $300 to $400.

The part time volunteer and part paid company, has two emergency medical technicians scheduled 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year Thompson said. Currently, there are 30 EMTs on the roaster.

There are two stations, one near Hawley that’s the prime station and the second is in Greeley. Thompson said the shifts range, but the EMTs can’t work more than 24 hours straight, because there has to be an eight-hour rest period.

The station closer to Hawley is like a home away from home with a lounge, bathroom, kitchen, and other typical items found in a home. Some of the volunteers and staff live within Lackawaxen Township, while others a bit further. But, Thompson said someone is always on call, ready to respond within the 77 square miles of the township.

With limited staff, Thompson said they try to send a crew to Greeley as often as possible, but it’s a task. Having referenced calls from two years ago in Greeley, it was learned that just 24 percent of the calls were from there, as opposed to the Hawley area station.

As a nonprofit, donations are essential said Thompson and so, to speed up billing the crew is using iPads to do their charts in the field, so the company could get reimbursed faster.

On average, there are 50 calls a month and as of mid-September, the crew was nearing 500 for the year. Generally Thompson said there are about 550 calls a year and this year, she expects to exceed that.

Most of the calls, Thompson said aren’t life threatening. If the crew responds to a call, assesses a person but the person doesn’t want to be transported further, they then sign a refusal form. This is problematic for Lackawaxen EMS, because the company doesn’t get paid. A third of the calls, Thompson said are refusals. Currently insurance companies are reassessing how the company can be paid when there are refusals.

Peoples’ reasoning for refusing treatment varies; they may get Narcan and then refuse further treatment or a diabetic’s sugar increased and they felt better. Others will drive themselves, which if they are minor, Donovan said that’s not a bad thing because the ambulance should be ready for the next call.

To drive a rig, a special license isn’t required, but an “ambulance specific” course is said Donovan.

Thompson said the Lackawaxen Township was “very generous with donations” to help with the cost for the new rig. To seek financial support, donation brochures are sent yearly and those gifts are helpful because residents are “very generous” in addition to the township’s support and the bingo events in the Masthope Community.

Money aside, there is a shortage of EMTs and so, there is an EMT reimbursement policy for persons who take the course and guarantee one year of active service. Currently, a volunteer who has a full time job, but was inspired after witnessing an emergency is going through the course and intends on volunteering during his weekends.

Donovan said EMTs are always needed, to fill all shifts and so, for further information call 570-685-4022 or 570-685-2255 or visit http://www.lackawaxenems.com/