Northwell assists Malverne Volunteer Ambulance Corps

Trial partnership began July 8


Ambulances from Northwell Health are now part of the emergency medical services response team in Malverne, it was announced at the village’s July 11 board meeting. The new partnership between the village and Northwell Health began July 8 and will run for a six-month trial period.

“Residents shouldn’t see much of a change. This is more behind the scenes,” said Perry Cuocci, a village trustee who is also a board member and past president of the Malverne Volunteer Ambulance Corps. “When the MVAC was tied up in a call or couldn’t roll a bus, the call would roll over to the county [ambulance]. Now, instead, our Police Department will be calling out for Northwell ambulance.”

The reason for the change wasn’t the performance of the county’s ambulance service per se, but Cuocci said that the options available through Northwell were a better choice for residents and the corps, and saved money. “Northwell ambulances … will almost always have a paramedic and an EMT or higher,” Cuocci said. At times, the county’s ambulances operated with only one emergency medical services person on board, which required a Malverne police officer to drive the ambulance to the hospital — resulting in overtime pay. By eliminating the officer’s role, the village will save in overtime, although Cuocci was unsure how much that would be.

The corps was adamantly against seeking outside help several years ago. Leadership said they believed the village wanted to eliminate MVAC. That is no longer true, Cuocci said. “This isn’t about putting the corps out of business,” he said. “MVAC will still be first due, and Northwell knows that.”

Bill Malone, vice president of MVAC and a 40-year member, said the decision to partner with Northwell was a good one. “Volunteerism right now is at the point where everyone is struggling,” said Malone, a past MVAC president and chairman. “We realized we had to do something more so that the village would be covered.”

Northwell also recently changed its business model. In the past, it required partners to guarantee a minimum number of calls, but that is no longer true, Cuocci said. They will now accept whatever calls are received.

The MVAC responded to 131 emergency calls from January through June, 106 of which were within the village, according to Cuocci. These statistics do not include calls that MVAC did not respond to because the corps was busy with another emergency or volunteers were not available.

In addition to providing emergency response, Northwell will train MVAC members in basic life support and host community training seminars at the corps’ headquarters at no cost.

Northwell ambulances have the added benefit of a technologically advanced EMS communications center, which tracks historical data and can predict when emergencies will happen. This gives Northwell the ability to strategically position ambulances. “We can predict, with a high level of certainty, the time of day, the day of week and area where future calls will come in,” said Alan Schwalberg, vice president of emergency medical services for Northwell Health. “We’re not predicting when you’ll get a heart attack. What it’s doing is tracking increases in volume — predicting when human behavior will increase.”

Schwalberg said that Northwell has had the system for roughly five years and has provided ambulances service for Lynbrook, Rockville Centre, Hempstead, Lake Success and Old Westbury. There are 100 ambulances in its fleet and 20 support vehicles. It is also the primary provider for LaGuardia Airport. Schwalberg said that ambulance response time is between five and eight minutes.

There is no charge to residents when a Malverne ambulance transports them to the hospital. However, when another EMS provider responds, there is one. Costs depend on the extent of services, but Schwalberg said that a basic life support transport could cost roughly $1,200, about the same as the county’s fee. Insurance companies usually cover ambulance transport, and Northwell is a provider for many of them, Cuocci said.