“We’re not here to take over. We’re not here to replace anybody. We’re simply here to try to help.”
Those are the words of Scott Falley, a Stony Brook University Hospital paramedic who spends his Tuesdays and Wednesdays on the North Fork as part of a special program to assist local EMTs during challenging daytime hours.
His vehicle, sometimes called a “fly car,” is an SUV fully stocked with equipment necessary for first responders at medical emergencies. In the past, Stony Brook University Hospital had manned such a car in eastern Riverhead and Mattituck, but on Monday, the program essentially slid eastward and the vehicle now serves the Mattituck and Cutchogue fire districts.
“We feel it’s a piece of community service we can offer in the region if the EMS agencies feel it would be beneficial for them,” said Eric Niegelberg, an assistant director of Stony Brook’s emergency department.
The vehicle works with Mattituck and Cutchogue fire departments — both of which are staffed by volunteers — between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays. Its goal is to “supplement” existing EMS services, Mr. Niegelberg said, by ensuring the accessibility of medical services during a time when most volunteer paramedics are at work.
“We know that the volunteer agencies have the most challenges in getting ambulance crews out during the daytime hours,” he said. “It’s a little more challenging for a department to mobilize a crew during work hours.”
Part of the push comes from Stony Brook’s recent partnership with Eastern Long Island Hospital. All of the medevacs in Suffolk County are staffed through the hospital. But the North Fork is the only region to receive a first-responder car and the hospital handles all the costs.
The paramedics are all considered advanced life support responders, which means they carry medications and can perform certain medical procedures, including needle decompressions, cardiac monitoring and administering IVs. They work under one of the hospital’s medical directors to ensure that they are properly trained for life-saving procedures.
“We bring the highest level of pre-hospital care that’s available out onto the [North] Fork,” Mr. Falley said. “What you see on an ambulance, we carry in [the truck] with the exception of the transport part of it. There’s no cot in there.”
Mr. Falley works Tuesdays and Wednesdays, while Frank Langa works Mondays and Bruce Zummo works Thursdays and Fridays. All three have more than 15 years of experience with Stony Brook and dozens of years as volunteer firefighters under their belts, Mr. Falley said.
Cutchogue Fire Department Chief Bill Brewer said he is happy to have the vehicle assisting in his district.
“Based on our community makeup, a lot of people don’t work in town like they used to, so many of our responders are committed to their full-time jobs,” he said. “This is designed to assist the volunteers we have here, not replace anybody. It’s an added safety net, and we’re excited about it.”
The vehicle also services Mattituck, though it has been there for at least eight years as part of the previous arrangement that also included Riverhead. During that time, the first-responder car worked with the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps.
However, Mr. Niegelberg said RVAC recently decided to end that arrangement and instead align itself with Northwell Health, which merged with Peconic Bay Medical Center last month.
The rest of the North Fork could soon see support from Stony Brook, too: Mr. Niegelberg said talks are already underway with other EMS agencies to bring additional “fly cars” to fire districts east of Cutchogue.
“We are ready to proceed and expand the service,” he said.
Caption: Scott Falley, a Stony Brook University Hospital paramedic, and his ‘fly car.’