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Karen Ranen: Amherst EMS overtaxed by student 911 calls

To the editor:

My husband and I have been reading in the Gazette and the Amherst Bulletin about Amherst Emergency Services being overtaxed trying to respond to all the recent 911 calls. Many of these calls have been due to the occurrence of student partying and the fallout afterwards.

Two Saturdays ago, we experienced Amherst Emergency Services firsthand. Unbeknownst to us, it was the Saturday of Blarney Blowout when a family member and I took an afternoon walk in South Amherst. We were about 20 minutes from our house, when suddenly my family member had an emergency health crisis. Being an R.N., I laid them on the ground and called out for help. No one responded immediately, so I called 911. Miraculously, two neighbors arrived on the scene and were an immense help. We waited — and waited — for emergency services, only to hear an ambulance siren in the distance pass us by.

Finally, a firefighter pulled up in his truck, followed by a police car and then eventually the ambulance.

The paramedic apologized; they were coming back from yet another “run” to Cooley Dickinson Hospital with students. Thank God, my family member was not having a heart attack, because they most likely would not be alive.

Amherst police and fire personnel have always been excellent in providing emergency care to our community. However, like so many others I am deeply concerned about how stretched EMS is in trying to meet the needs of our community. While they are so occupied making alcohol- and drug-related runs to the hospital, the rest of the community is in serious jeopardy, I believe.

I agree with the recent decision of Town Manager John Musante to ask the University of Massachusetts to cover the cost of additional ambulances. Not only is the health of Amherst residents in jeopardy, but the students of the surrounding colleges as well. I agree to the need for the university to expand the hours of the University Health Services, and if need be, to re-open the in-patient unit on the weekends to offset the burden to the CDH emergency room.

Karen Ranen

Amherst

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