SOMAC seeks additional healthcare providers

Flush with new volunteer drivers, Southern Madison County Ambulance Corps is seeking additional healthcare providers to meet the increased community need that is anticipated in coming weeks.

After losing 40 student volunteers when coronavirus forced Colgate University to close three weeks ago, SOMAC’s Head Paramedic and Director of Operations Kyle Sylvester issued a call for volunteer drivers. More than 40 people responded, nearly all of whom are being trained to join SOMAC’s ranks.

But few of those new volunteers are trained as paramedics or emergency medical technicians, and Sylvester is turning to the community once again in search of individuals with the training to staff what is expected to be a surge in calls as the coronavirus peaks. “We now have nearly three times as many drivers as we have trained healthcare providers, and we need both to fully staff a call,” Sylvester said.

In addition to hiring additional part-time paramedics and EMTs, Sylvester said SOMAC will work with any trained volunteers who have been out of service for a time and wish to refresh their experience. He can be reached at ksylvester@somacambulance.org.

Incorporated 35 years ago as a not-for-profit serving the village and town of Hamilton (including Lebanon, Earlville and Hubbardsville), SOMAC employs 16 paid staff members in addition to community volunteers. The service operates with three ambulances and a “fly car,” all certified at the paramedic level. In addition to 911 calls, SOMAC provides emergent and non-emergent transfers from Community Memorial Hospital to other medical facilities, a service that is expected to increase as coronavirus affects more residents.

With Colgate closed and most residents staying home in response to coronavirus directives, the volume of SOMAC calls has been down by about two-thirds since mid-March. (Indeed, many of those calls – averaging one every 30 hours – come from residents experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.) That relative lull provides time for SOMAC to train the new volunteers who will be needed to answer an increasing demand for service as the virus reaches its peak in the weeks and months ahead.

Sylvester has also been using the time to locate the personal protection equipment – masks, protective suits, face shields, etc. – that protects medical providers as they treat patients afflicted with coronavirus. “Whenever I’m awake, I’m sourcing PPE,” said Sylvester. “We’re doing okay for now.”

Coronavirus presents new challenges for SOMAC. Ambulance services – like all health care organizations and professionals – are scrambling to adjust to emerging conditions. Sylvester and his crews work from a “decision tree” to comply with state directives and provide compassionate care that responds to the individual circumstances of those in need while recognizing the capacity of healthcare facilities.

“This is important, rewarding work, providing an essential service to our community at a time of great need,” said Sylvester. “We welcome the involvement of anyone with the skills and desire to help.”

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