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Canajoharie, NY ,

Joshua Thomas
Paramedic Eric Hendricks (left) and Basic EMT Steven Smith with one of GAVAC/SAVAC's 11-vehicle ambulance fleet (left) and one of their three paramedic fly cars in the Arkell Museum at Canajoharie and Canajoharie Library parking lot Tuesday.

Joshua Thomas
A view inside one of GAVAC/SAVAC's life saving ambulances.


GAVAC/SAVAC significantly increases local presence

Thursday, April 10, 2014 - Updated: 9:44 AM


C-S-E Editor

GAVAC/SAVAC has been designated the first emergency responder in the villages of Canajoharie and Fort Plain, and presentations have been made in the towns of Minden, Palatine and the village of Nelliston requesting the same consideration. Even with decisions forthcoming in those local municipalities, it's safe to say that GAVAC/SAVAC has significantly increased its local presence.

"We want to be a part of the community, so we're here making a strong presence," said Executive Director Thomas Pasquarelli, Jr. Tuesday, stating that since the village of Canajoharie's vote to designate GAVAC/SAVAC first responder on March 5, they have placed an ambulance in the community permanently. At times, the not-for-profit organization has even had up to three ambulances answering local calls at once, as GAVAC/SAVAC operates under a system wherein their ambulances are constantly moving and rotating to fill areas in need. If one ambulance is on a call, another is immediately placed en route to take its place.

Since March 5, GAVAC/SAVAC has responded to 120 calls locally, and Pasquarelli commented, "We're staying busy. This truck is staying busy."

Though they're currently leasing space from Access Transportation in Fort Plain, GAVAC/SAVAC representatives have been in the community on a daily basis searching for a more permanent home. Pasquarelli said he's 90 percent sure they'll end up constructing a brand new facility on vacant land.

While they have looked into rehabilitating an existing building, they haven't found one that meets their needs. Pasquarelli said that building from scratch would be more of a "green" process than rehabilitating, as a new structure would be constructed to run as efficiently as possible.

"Realistically, we want to have this done by fall," said Pasquarelli of the goal to build a local facility, noting that five pieces of land are currently being evaluated, with GAVAC/SAVAC working with architects to find out which lot best suits their needs.

Pasquarelli said he's hoping a decision will be made regarding a purchase within the next two weeks.

One current goal of the organization, and a reason that most locals have seen GAVAC/SAVAC vehicles along main roads and in local parking lots, is to increase visibility. "We want the community to know that we're here and that good quality healthcare is here," said Pasquarelli, explaining that ten additional staff members have been added specifically to work this area, bringing the county-wide staff to 100. A brand new, 2014 ambulance has also been purchased to station in the local area, bringing the fleet of ambulances to 11. GAVAC/SAVAC also owns three paramedic fly cars.

In providing the best equipment, personnel and service possible, Pasquarelli said GAVAC/SAVAC is looking to invest nearly half a million dollars in the local community -- a community that they are a part of not only as first responders, but a community where many of the organization's employees, which are schooled for years and constantly receive up-to-date, daily training -- live.

"We are here to provide the best service. There's no reason in the world why the residents of Canajoharie, Palatine, Minden, Nelliston and Fort Plain deserve any less services than the people of Amsterdam or anywhere else," Pasquarelli stated, continuing, "We are truly here because we can provide better patient care and quicker responses."

Included in the advanced care provided by GAVAC/SAVAC are medications that other ambulance services aren't able to carry. They are also equipped to provide specialty care, or critical care, paramedics who attend a ten-week school in house, which Pasquarelli said, "brings them up to a much different level," -- a level similar to medics in a medi-vac helicopter. GAVAC/SAVAC also carries narcotics and specialized equipment, such as transport ventilators, which each truck is equipped with. Each truck is also equipped with a minimum of one paramedic.

GAVAC/SAVAC is licensed to provide training in Montgomery County for all of New York State, and is also a National Association of EMTs training site, "offering any single course you can think of."

The organization has also been meeting with local fire departments lately, attending their drills with the goal of bringing them up to speed regarding their technology. "We have a great interaction with these fire departments, and if they have questions, we want to be able to work with them," Pasquarelli said.

Pasquarelli said that no matter what the developments in modern health care -- which he sees moving in the direction of treating patients fully in ambulances, sometimes without having to transport them to hospitals -- GAVAC/SAVAC plans to stay on the cutting edge.

"We're bringing hospitals to the patients. Ultimately, today, they still go to the hospital, but there will be a change, where patients will be treated by paramedics," he said.

Pasquarelli concluded of GAVAC/SAVAC, "we're always on the cutting edge, whether it's community paramedicine, mobile integrated healthcare -- we're working with hospitals, with state agencies to make all of those things happen."

"We're glad to be a part of the area and part of the community and we're certainly looking forward to getting to know everybody."


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