The South Fork’s “mutual aid” system, in which the various local ambulance services back one another up in the event that a squad cannot be mobilized, was called into question recently after a 97-year-old man injured in a fall waited for more than 20 minutes in the rain. This example is not the only time a victim has waited what seems like a long time for a ride to the hospital.
Emergency service providers have long been aware that their all-volunteer corps are increasingly stretched thin. The number of calls has risen each year, while the number of emergency medical technicians has not. There is concern that the aging baby boom population will put new and additional pressure on ambulance services. On top of this, those at summer resorts, day-trip attractions, and share houses expect the volunteers to be there when they call for help.
The ambulance companies and associations from Bridgehampton to Montauk are well aware of the demands upon them. Their leaders are said to have been in an ongoing dialogue about whether changes are needed. East Hampton Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. has said that something must be done. This is an important conversation to have, literally a matter of life and death.