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Officials look into sustainability of emergency medical operations across Connecticut

Suffield Volunteer Ambulance Association
Voluntary nonprofit EMS services, like the Suffield Volunteer Ambulance Association, form the bulk of EMS response statewide.

Three emergency medical services (EMS) shut down last year as a result of funding woes, and officials are worried about the sustainability of EMS operations across Connecticut.

The state’s Public Health Committee held a forum Thursday to address the issue.

Many nonprofit, primarily volunteer EMS services are operating in the red, said Benjamin Zura of the Connecticut Association of Paramedics and EMTs.

“In the context of the rest of the performance measures, it paints a scary picture,” Zura told legislators. “This part of the EMS system is not sustainable. As municipalities are spending more on public safety agencies, very, very rarely are they spending equally on ambulances as they are on the other public safety agencies.”

State Sen. Dr. Saud Anwar, a Democrat and vice chair of the Public Health Committee, said legislators and stakeholders must look into how hospital consolidations, high volunteer EMT attrition rates and declining reimbursements to EMS services will affect the industry.

“There is a matter of time [until] we will have parts of our state and parts of our communities which will not have the EMS response that we would expect for our own family members,” Anwar said.

There are about 7,636 emergency medical responders in Connecticut, compared with 7,063 in 2019.

Stakeholders plan to gather additional data and collaborate on developing solutions. A second forum is scheduled for July 28 to discuss overdose prevention.

Sujata Srinivasan is Connecticut Public Radio’s senior health reporter. Prior to that, she was a senior producer for Where We Live, a newsroom editor, and from 2010-2014, a business reporter for the station.