LEE -- The Lee Ambulance Service will soon be elevated to paramedic status in order to increase the efficiency of emergency care to the communities it serves.
The state-sanctioned upgrade for the primarily volunteer town service will officially take effect in two weeks, according to ambulance officials.
Director Lisa Michaud said starting Oct. 21, the Massachusetts Office of Emergency Medical Services will allow the Lee Ambulance Service to provide paramedic care, such as Advanced Cardiac Life Support.
"It will be the same type of care you receive in the emergency room, with the use of some medicines approved for the field," she said.
Town officials view the improved ambulatory care as a boost to Lee's overall emergency services.
"What a wonderful upgrade for the town and surrounding communities they serve," said Lee Police Chief Joseph Buffis. "It also shows the continued commitment of excellence by the volunteers."
The 50-member ambulance squad covers Lee, Tyringham, Stockbridge and a 20-mile stretch of the Massachusetts Turnpike, responding to more than 900 emergency calls each year, according to ambulance officials
For calls requiring paramedic care, Lee currently relies on County Ambulance to arrive on the scene to assist the local ambulance squad -- a $5,000 monthly expense, Michaud said.
With 14 certified paramedics on staff -- three full-time -- she cited how Lee won't have to pay or wait for outside help.
"There won't be a delay if someone is down with cardiac arrest," said Peter Willey. Willey is an emergency medical technician (EMT) and 33-year veteran of the ambulance squad.
While a municipal entity, formed in 1968, the Lee Ambulance Service's nearly $500,000 annual operating budget is funded primarily through medical insurance reimbursements and out-of-pocket revenue.
The mostly volunteer squad offers EMT, CPR, First Re sponder and first-aid training, along with public safety and educational services in the Lee area. In addition, Lee ambulance personnel provide first-aid coverage at local events, such as high school football games.
Nevertheless, Michaud wants to increase her organization's non-emergency presence in it's service area.
"We plan to do more to help senior citizens in the community, such as fall prevention," she said. "We also want do more with the high school students."
To reach Dick Lindsay:
or (413) 496-6233.