by Dave Warner
The Mohawk Valley Ambulance Corps (MOVAC) is a non-profit ambulance service that provides emergency medical services and primary ambulance coverage to the Villages of Dolgeville, Herkimer, and Mohawk. The Towns of German Flatts (excluding the Villiage of Ilion), Herkimer, Manheim, Salisbury, Stratford, and part of Oppenheim.
MOVAC says its sole existence is to serve the Mohawk Valley region of Herkimer County as an integral and unaffiliated part of its healthcare system. But, like all non-profits, they need to raise money to support their operations.
Donald R. Kane Jr., Chief Operating Officer of MOVAC, said, “In some cases, we are people’s primary care. Our mission is to provide the best technology-based service in the area.”
Every year the organization does a mailing to all the residents of the areas they serve. “They will get a piece that outlines who we are and what we’re doing. A lot of times, we put in some of the project materials that we’re working towards. This year we talked about the increase in costs, just like everyone else is dealing with.”
“Our ambulances are on the road 24/7, so our fuel bill is through the roof,” he said.
Kane said the mailing is one way they try to meet their budget.
Four of their ambulances are on long-term loans, and cardiac monitors, stretchers, and other items are as well. “The money we receive through fundraising is to help pay those debts down to where we can pay them off quicker, which saves us a lot in interest.”
He said that EMS is a third wheel that doesn’t get much attention regarding funding. “There are a lot of grant opportunities for police and fire departments, but very little specifically marked for emergency services or ambulance services. From Federal to State, to local, very limited.”
The one big grant they could get was during Covid, which was for payroll protection. “That’s it. Many other big monetary things are usually private donations through our contacts.”
The Herkimer County Legislature recently approved a large grant for Old Forge’s new ambulance building project. “I think it’s great that an ambulance company is receiving that amount of money. That’s fantastic, but I would like to see all EMS agencies receive that,” he stated.
Kane said every ambulance service in Herkimer County is suffering and in a financial crisis mode. “They were the first line defenders during Covid, bringing people to the hospital to ensure they got the treatment they needed.”
He says that the increases in insurance, the difficulty and low payment percentage from Medicare and Medicaid, and the poor funding model when it comes to grant funding are killing the industry.
“Medicare and Medicaid are about 60-80% lower than the cost of providing the service,” stated Kane.
“Nearly all the ambulance organizations in Herkimer County are bankrupt. They’re operating on pennies. They have challenges with maintaining staffing because of the low pay rates that they can afford. Some are still volunteer and they’re losing volunteers because of the high costs of gas and training.”
Kane says that an increase in funding is the only way to fix things. “Many people say that just throwing money at a problem won’t fix it, but in this case, it will.”
They have another issue as well. Space is very limited at the current location for MOVAC because they can’t build out or up.
“We’re limited to our property line, but we’re surrounded by Department of Transportation property and Canal Corp property. We’re trying to address the issues that we have around our property that we don’t own, that they have to maintain.”
The parking lots are peeling, cracking, and breaking up, and those are not on their property but crucial to getting in and out of their building.
The Empire Trail also runs right behind them, but the main access to the trail behind their building is also unsafe. “It looks terrible with the potholes and fence falling into the canal. There’s also a safety concern where the trail heads right towards the water with no fence. We’re trying to address those issues,” he said.
You can visit their website for more information about the group. They also have a donation button on their website if you’re interested in contributing. A recent interview with Michele Hummel, Executive Director of the Herkimer County Chamber of Commerce (below), also featured MOVAC.