OGDENSBURG, N.Y. (WWTI) — Local officials are responding to the “crisis” impacting St. Lawrence County Emergency Medical Service system.

This crisis was announced on March 29 by the St. Lawrence County Emergency Medical Services Advisory Board. The Board warned that the County’s EMS system is “actively collapsing” due to the ongoing worker shortage and lack of funding.

In response, Ogdensburg City Manager issued a press release on April 2 to discuss the crisis and address allegations in the city.

In the press release, Jellie explained that Ogdensburg’s EMS system is “not immune or exempt” from the issues facing the county.

Jellie said that the assets that Ogdensburg has available for EMS are sometimes challenging and may not also be available on request as the Ogdensburg Volunteer Rescue Squad is the primary agency in the City.

His full statement can be read below:

I urge everyone to recognize that in your lifetime, you will summons EMS services to a need for your family or yourself and you must take an active interest in the solutions needed for the short and long term. City Councilors, County Legislators and State Officials must hear from you, and they must hear your demand for action (legislative and financial) to stem this growing crisis to a vital life-saving service. Politicians will kick the can down the road and ignore this problem as they have for many years because there is no easy solution and likely there will be conflict when the hard decisions are made.

In the City of Ogdensburg, the status of EMS is not dire, however, the City’s EMS system is not immune or exempt from the same issues that are occurring in other parts of St. Lawrence County. The assets the City has available for EMS are challenged at times and may not be available when call requests exceed available personnel. The Ogdensburg Volunteer Rescue Squad (OVRS) is the primary agency responsible for EMS delivery in the City, and they do a remarkably good job of managing the requests for service with the personnel they have, but they are in need of additional volunteers to join their ranks. OVRS also has paid staff that maintain consistent coverage for the City and surrounding communities but even paid personnel are difficult to recruit and maintain because of the extreme shortage and competition. Further adding to the demand are requests for OVRS to cover communities outside the City that either do not have dedicated EMS coverage or they do not have personnel available to provide coverage. I will continue to work with OVRS and other mutual entities to insure adequate and consistent EMS coverage is available to City residents and visitors. Please consider volunteering with OVRS.

On Friday, Ogdensburg City Councilor Dan Skamperle posted a politically motivated, fictional opinion that was critical of my decisions as Fire Chief to limit the types of EMS calls the Ogdensburg Fire Department (OFD) responds to. The following are a few facts on the matter. No one has died because OFD refused to respond to a call for assistance. OFD responds to ALL medical calls if OVRS is not available and OFD is not assigned to another call. I will provide an update to City Council, as I have from the start of my tenure as City Manager/Fire Chief, on the status of OFD programs and response policies that best use the resources (personnel and financial) that City Council provides. Councilor Dan Skamperle asserting that I, or the majority City Council, are making decisions that put a price, or savings, against human life is disgusting, designed only to elicit fear in the most vulnerable individuals, beneath the office he holds and only designed to garner support from the tiny group of people that are dedicated to the obstruction of the City surviving and ultimately reviving. I call on Councilor Skamperle to provide verifiable facts that support his outrageous allegations of death and service refusal or admit he is only “playing the game” for a tiny crowd of disgruntled constituents that he desperately needs to demonstrate his commitment to or he will risk losing their support.

As always, I am available most anytime to respond to questions or concerns – please call or write.

Stephen Jellie, City Manager, Ogdensburg

More on this issue can be found on the City of Ogdensburg’s website.