David Raizen called Scarsdale Volunteer Ambulance Corps’ new designation as a community paramedicine provider, “An ounce of prevention.”
When founding father Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” he was referring to the benefit of preventing vs. putting out fires when damage has already been done in the late 1700s. In the modern world for SVAC president Raizen, it’s helping control a pandemic in 2021.
SVAC was approved by the New York State Department of Health this week to provide COVID-19 testing and inoculation, expanding its services “beyond initial emergency medical care and transportation to the hospital,” the first such approval in Westchester County, followed shortly thereafter by Ossining Volunteer Ambulance Corps. Phase one of the program will allow SVAC to administer rapid COVID-19 tests at its headquarters at 5 Weaver St. and also in schools.
Residents would be able to call to set up an appointment to come in to be tested. The process and cost to SVAC will depend on the demand for testing by residents. SVAC will have the equipment to get the results of the tests within 30 minutes and some volunteers are already trained in that process.
“We are just waiting for the [testing] supplies to come, which are coming from the state,” Raizen said. “That’s allegedly already on the way.”
Pending Westchester County DOH approval and an allocation of vaccines, SVAC will additionally be able to have paramedics vaccinate homebound Scarsdalians at their residences.
SVAC is also hopeful to be authorized to run a vaccine POD — place of dispensary — at 5 Weaver St. or the Scarsdale Public Library to serve the greater community. Those vaccines would be administered by anyone with an EMT certification or greater, which Raizen said is “almost all” of the approximately 75 SVAC volunteers.
“The quicker we can help people get vaccinated, the less calls there are to do,” Raizen said, adding, “It’s like people ask us, ‘Why are you handing out water for free at the high school graduation?’ Because I would rather hydrate you than carry you out.”
Though the number of COVID-related calls is way down now compared to last spring when “almost every single call” was COVID, Raizen said, the threat remains.
“The Village of Scarsdale is blessed to be served by the dedicated volunteers comprising SVAC and is appreciative of State and County support for delivering much needed medical services to local at-risk populations through such innovative and cost-effective programs,” Mayor Marc Samwick wrote in a press release.
In addition, SVAC has applied for phase two, which would allow for an increase in paramedic telemedicine to provide “other tests and follow-up care” in partnership with White Plains Hospital, “so that people don’t have to go to the ER or the doctor’s office if we can do it for them in their home,” Raizen said. “We would be working with the hospital on getting this done.”
Raizen called community paramedicine “the future of health care.” In light of the widespread introduction of telemedicine during the first months of the pandemic, this would serve as a complement to that, providing some of the procedural work you can’t do over the phone or computer. “The ultimate goals are to provide chronic disease and injury prevention, reduce 911 requests and transports for nonurgent patients, and provide follow-up care for high-risk patients without hospital readmission,” Raizen said.
Certain nonemergent tests and procedures would be performed by properly certified SVAC staff from the safety of a patient’s home.
“We’re finding that tons of people are afraid to go to the hospital because they think the ER is packed with COVID, and we're going to try and bring some of this stuff to the home,” Raizen said.
SVAC, which features both paid and volunteer emergency service providers, always has a crew scheduled on call at its headquarters 24/7, 365 days a year, to guarantee efficiency in emergencies. “There’s always people at the building,” Raizen said. “We do not come from home generally speaking as the primary crew. Only people who come from home are the second, third or fourth crews.”
Like any call SVAC responds to, the new services would be free to residents, though a donation to cover costs would be solicited.
The 50-plus hours of work that it took on SVAC’s part to make the plans, revise them and submit them for approval over the past few months were well worth the effort, according to Raizen. It’s a game-changer for the SVAC crew and the community.
“Everybody’s psyched,” Raizen said. “We want to do what we can do to help end this pandemic.”