AKWESASNE, N.Y. (WWTI) — The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe will be losing one of its ambulance units in January of 2022.

According to a press release from the SRMT, Emergency Medical Service organizations within New York have been facing challenges for many years. They attributed difficulties to fewer people entering the profession, fewer volunteers, existing providers retiring or moving to less stressful fields of work, low reimbursement rates for transports, relatively low pay, and the impacts of COVID-19 mandates.

The impacts have accelerated the challenges for paid and volunteer EMS organizations, and as a result, have led to the closing of the SMRT’s EMS contractor, Seaway Valley Ambulance. The Ambulance will no longer have the staffing to provide its daily Advanced Life Support coverage for Akwesasne.

SRMT Executive Director Tsiorasa Barreiro reflected on the services the Ambulance was able to provide over the years in the press release.

“In 2016, the Tribe contracted with Seaway Valley Ambulance to increase community safety and response
times with the addition of a fully staffed ALS Ambulance,” Barreiro said. “Seaway Valley and Akwesasne Mohawk Ambulance have worked cooperatively to provide backup support for the other during multiple calls, traumas, and life-threatening emergencies. This is a disappointment to SRMT and to the management of Seaway Valley as any future medical assistance would come from Massena NY rather than our local ambulance bay on the territory.”

SRMT Health Director Michael Cook explained that similar issues are being experienced across the state during a live radio talk show on CKON 97.3.

“This is not a unique issue to the Akwesasne community, this is a regional crisis,” Cook said. “Hospital diversions due to limited beds, staffing shortages, and other circumstances are increasing wait times as ambulances are taken out of their immediate service area. We’re seeing people needing to wait 45 minutes for another community’s ambulance service to respond.”

In an effort to avoid similar issues in their jurisdictions, the Tribe is working on a long-term plan for the community, as well as stressing the vital role that EMTs serve. Director of the Tribe’s Office of
Emergency Management and Safety Derek Comins stressed the importance of EMS positions in the press release.

“We have to grow our own EMTs and Paramedics from within the Akwesasne community due to border
travel requirements and other unique challenges,” Derek Comins said. “Knowing that you made a difference in someone’s life has been among the best rewards during my time as an EMT. I highly encourage those who may be interested, but apprehensive, on becoming an EMT to contact Akwesasne Mohawk Ambulance about opportunities to become an ambulance driver.”

The Tribe is encouraging residents to enroll in an EMT course throughout the Tribe’s Employment, Education, and Training Program. It is free to enroll however books for the course cost $850. Those interested in receiving more information are encouraged to call the Akwesasne Mohawk Ambulance at (613) 575-2250 extension 3121.

Residents who require emergency transport should contact the 911 or tribal police dispatch at (518) 358-9200 in Akwesasne’s southern portion. The northern portion can call Akwesasne Emergency Dispatch at
(613) 575-2000.