Putnam County Executive
April 7, 2022
Though they only started working together in December, the EMTs and Paramedics who serve in Putnam County’s Ambulnz service say they already feel like part of a big family.
They walk each other’s dogs, grab meals together and work closely with the local ambulance corps and fire department companies throughout the county. That kind of camaraderie comes naturally in a job where life and death decisions must be made in a split-second.
“We want to make it a family situation,” said John Sarles, the Paramedic supervisor for the Putnam County Division of Ambulnz. “We’ve created a safe, fun environment. That’s important when you work 12- or 24-hour shifts together.”
Ambulnz took over as the county’s provider of emergency medical services on January 1 and brought in a group of experienced paramedics and emergency medical technicians who respond to 911 calls throughout Putnam with extremely high-quality care.
In Putnam County, Ambulnz has 2 ambulances that transport patients and provide Basic Life Support (BLS) as well as three rapid response vehicles, also known as “fly cars” staffed by paramedics who provide Advanced Life Support (ALS).
“All the equipment is new and state-of-the-art,” said Sarles, a Brewster resident who has been in the industry for ten years and also works at Norwalk Hospital.
He pointed to a fly car that was fully stocked with supplies for every conceivable emergency, including a LUCAS-CPR device that provides automatic chest compression, making it more effective than manual CPR. The ambulances have a BAIR HUGGER system that is designed to prevent hypothermia and stabilize a patient’s body temperature. “Ambulnz has insured that our paramedics & EMTs are provided with the best equipment in order to perform and provide the highest level of Advanced Life Support Care available in the industry,” said Michael S. Witkowski, Chief of Emergency Operations for Ambulnz, a division of DocGo. “This investment in equipment and personnel into the Putnam County EMS system shows Ambulnz’s commitment to the County’s residents and visitors insuring that in their time of need Ambulnz and our partners in the EMS and Fire Service will be there to answer the call for help quickly, efficiently and effectively.”
But the job of life-saving is about more than equipment. Ambulnz’s staff has the training, judgment and confidence that allows Putnam County residents to feel secure in emergencies.
“They’ve already had three saves,” said Putnam County Emergency Services Commissioner Ken Clair Jr. said of Ambulnz’s record in Putnam County. “That’s impressive in such a short amount of time.”
Ambulnz first launched in 2015 in California and is now coast to coast.
“We expanded to New York in 2017 and helped the state flatten the curve during the devastating first wave of the Covid emergency,” said Witkowski, whose office is in Newburgh. “We were asked to assist at one of the
largest COVID Vaccination centers in NY – The Javits Center. In addition, Ambulnz currently provides support to multiple NYS COVID Vaccine sites throughout the state, and we provided 12 Advanced Life Support and Critical Care Ambulances to NYS for the Omicron Surge to help decompress hospitals across the state. We transported some of the most critical and sickest patients to other critical care hospitals, and assisted local hospitals that were dealing with a COVID spike, short staffing, and overcrowding of the ER’s and critical care units. “ Closer to home, Ambulnz ran Putnam County’s free, drive-through rapid COVID testing clinics in Carmel and Philipstown during the Omicron surge. “Ambulnz stepped in on very short notice, when another contractor notified us that they couldn’t provide the service,” said Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell. “In just two days, Ambulnz came in, set up a site and started running an extremely professional operation. At the height of the surge, they tested up to 750 people a day, giving our residents information they needed to stay healthy and protect their families and our communities. I’m extremely grateful to Ambulnz for their work and very proud to have played a part in bringing Ambulnz to Putnam County.”
On a recent day, Sarles responded in the fly car to calls in Patterson and Brewster and was greeted warmly by the Patterson and Brewster ambulance crews already on the scene. Often Sarles’ role is to offer additional support as in a recent fatal fire in Lake Carmel when he ensured that there were enough ambulances on site to treat the many victims.
“We’re going to their house in a time of need,” Sarles said. “We have to be respectful, compassionate.”
There is a well-documented shortage of EMTs throughout the nation these days. To address the issue locally, paramedics from Ambulnz assisted with guest lectures and training when Putnam County Bureau of Emergency Services ran a full, eight-week training class from November to January in Carmel. The class produced six new EMT hires for Ambulnz.
The company also assisted the county in the Accelerated EMT training class that a group of 20 New York State National Guards members completed in March.
Victor Grozdev, is a travel paramedic for Ambulnz. Originally from Arizona, he worked for 10 years at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and has been with Ambulnz for five years. He came to Putnam to help out in December.
“It’s not my job to be a hero,” Grozdev said. “It’s my job to keep the patient alive long enough to get to the doctor who can save them.”
The transition to Ambulnz was an easy one, from Commissioner Clair’s vantage point.
“Ambulnz came in with a group of highly-trained professionals who made sure they knew everything about Putnam County and all of the available hospital services,” Commissioner Clair said. “They didn’t miss a beat.”