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Long IslandSuffolk

Northport fire commissioners urge village to hire paramedics

The Northport Fire Department is seen June 17,

The Northport Fire Department is seen June 17, 2012. Credit: Arielle Dollinger

Northport Fire Department commissioners have asked village officials to find roughly $160,000 to hire paid paramedics, a move they said is necessary to ensure residents have access to the most critical lifesaving care in an emergency.

The volunteer department has 28 volunteer emergency medical technicians, including two paramedics — the most highly trained emergency responders.

Phil Weber, chairman of the department’s commissioners, said at a Tuesday work session with village officials that the staffing is not enough: The department needs more paramedics to handle serious medical emergencies, especially during daytime hours when most medical emergencies occur in Northport.

From January to October last year, 63 percent of the fire department’s 610 medical emergency calls came between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., according to the department’s presentation to village officials. However, the department’s volunteer paramedics work less than 5 percent of daytime calls, officials said.

Commissioners presented a tentative proposal to add enough part-time paramedics to ensure the department had at least one on staff from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday — an additional 80 hours a week of manpower.

The exact number of part-time hires hasn’t been determined. Under the tentative proposal, new paramedics would each work no more than 17.5 hours a week, making $25 an hour. One senior paramedic would be paid $30 per hour.

The total cost would be about $129,000 in wages, plus roughly $31,000 in workers’ compensation, insurance and other costs, village and department officials said.

In addition to being trained and licensed to perform more advanced medical treatment, paramedics can communicate and take direction from physicians as they handle trauma in the field.

Mayor George Doll and the trustees in attendance said they understood the need and urgency for the addition of paramedics.

“It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of how” to pay for more, trustee Ian Milligan said.

Trustee Henry Tobin said the Town of Huntington and the Village of Asharoken should share in the added cost because Northport’s Fire Department serves Fort Salonga and Crab Meadow — both part of Huntington — and has a contract to serve Asharoken.

Fire commissioners are expected to report back to village officials later this week with more information. Village trustees could consider and vote on a resolution by the board’s June 21 meeting, officials said.

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