Adirondacks looks to build future health care

Members of the Old Forge Volunteer Ambulance Corps. with their brand new Horton ambulance which the organization took delivery of in December. Back row, from left: Dave Langworthy, Jim Munger, Dan Rivet, Gary Staab, Linda Grace, RaeAnn Hickcock, Bill Rockhill, Danielle Hoepfl, Dawn Schweinsberg, and Mike Senf. Front row, from left: John Gardner and Richard Risley.

Health care providers explore options to meet needs of park population that includes growing number of part-time residents

By Stephen Leon 

In Old Forge, which has a small health center, Mike Farmer has seen people show up at the visitor information center “seeking immediate medical assistance for everything from serious external bleeding to seizures to suspected heart attacks and strokes.”

Farmer or other center personnel call 911. EMTs either direct the patient to the Town of Webb Health Center—a weekdays-only, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. operation—or rush them by ambulance to a hospital an hour away from the western Adirondack village.

“Some of the risk posed by the absence of an urgent care facility is minimized by the heroic efforts of EMT/ALS/ambulance staff,” Farmer said.


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Farmer, the tourism and publicity director for the Town of Webb (which includes Old Forge), and others who live in isolated areas of the Adirondack Park reside in health care “deserts.” Their nearest hospital or urgent care is at least an hour away. When people in Lake Pleasant need emergency care, ambulances transport them to Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville. From Webb, they are taken to one of two hospitals in Utica.

Farmer recounts a recent case in which a stricken resident received care by local emergency personnel and was transported by ambulance to Alder Creek to meet a Life Flight helicopter. He died two days later.

“Of course,” Farmer said, “it’s impossible to know if access to an urgent care facility within 20 minutes of the event would have made any difference. Balanced against 60 minutes to the hospital, it seems the outcome could not have been any worse.”

mike farmer
Town of Webb Publicity Director Mike Farmer stands in front of the Old Forge Visitor Information Center, where some people go seeking medical attention. Photo by Jamie Organski

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