It's Rural/Metro vs. TLC as competition comes to emergency services in Syracuse

— In 2008, 13.7 percent of the city's population is 65 or older, and as baby boomers age, that percentage will only grow.

Add to that the fact that medical technology is improving and people are becoming better educated about risk factors and warning signs, and the need for additional emergency transport resources, and TLC sees that demand growing even more.

Addario, in contrast, said the need isn't for more ambulances to transport patients, it's in the number of paramedics available to provide care to them, evidence of a larger problem in the system.

The underserved

But there is yet another population whose growth indicates a need for additional resources: the uninsured.

In 2008, the NYS Department of Health reported that more than 10 percent of Onondaga County residents under the age of 64 were uninsured. And when the uninsured need medical care, they are more likely to call 911 and head to the emergency room than to call a general physician and set up an appointment.

"There's a lot of people without medical insurance, and their only option is to call an ambulance," said Ed Binns, paramedic supervisor with TLC.

Sending ambulances out on emergency calls for what turn out to be non-emergencies ties up those resources and can take them away from actual life-threatening events. Transportation to the hospital -- which paramedics cannot deny, regardless of the seriousness of the injury or affliction -- means additional time and resources spent on non-emergencies.

When paramedics and EMTs are faced with actual emergencies, the level of service available through an ambulance has become significantly more sophisticated in recent years, and therefore is more time consuming to administer, which again means fewer available rigs for 911 calls.

It's a business, after all

TLC's presence in the city will essentially break Rural/Metro's monopoly, and like in any commercial field, the customers could stand to benefit from a competitive market.

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