As of Wednesday, Bridgehampton Fire Rescue, the ambulance company operated by the Bridgehampton Fire District, was without a narcotics division, leaving the company without pain and seizure medications to treat patients during emergency calls—and requiring the squad to call in neighboring ambulance crews in the event that controlled substances need to be administered.
Philip Cammann, who led the narcotics division for the company since its inception five years ago, handed over the company’s narcotics to Southampton Hospital Wednesday morning following his resignation as the control substance agent.
The move comes amid struggles within the Bridgehampton Fire District to set up its paid Advanced Life Support provider program to employ paid paramedics and critical care emergency medical technicians, which it budgeted nearly $300,000 for in the fall.
At a Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday night, the board did not discuss the status of the program or its plans for moving forward with the paid provider program, only quickly answering questions from Stacy Ludlow, Bridgehampton Fire Rescue’s captain. Ms. Ludlow declined to comment on the situation. Likewise, Ray Topping, the chairman of the board, also declined to comment following Tuesday night’s meeting.
Mr. Cammann said on Wednesday that he did not wish to continue with the voluntary position because he did not have the time to handle the extra responsibilities that came with it, and that he informed the district’s board on April 14 that he would be stepping down.
Control substance agents are tasked with handling all paperwork pertaining to the drugs the agency has, keeping inventory on a regular basis, and ensuring the drugs are always properly stored, among other duties.
“It’s a lot of additional work, along with everything else that a volunteer is required to do,” said Mr. Cammann, who added that he will still remain a volunteer with the district. When he is not volunteering, Mr. Cammann supervises the paid provider program at Southampton Volunteer Ambulance. He also works one day a week for the Southampton Village Volunteer Ambulance. “At this point in time, I don’t have the time. All I’m doing is stepping back on some of my extracurricular volunteer responsibilities.”
Mr. Cammann had originally been tasked with helping to set up Bridgehampton’s paid responder program. Earlier this year, the district had hired a paramedic from East Quogue, named Jennifer Davonski, to work with Mr. Cammann in setting it up. Ms. Davonski, however, quit shortly after her hiring in late March, leaving Mr. Cammann the sole person in charge of the program. He has since stepped down from that too, citing irreconcilable differences with the Board of Fire Commissioners.
Mr. Cammann said that he and Ms. Davonski created a proposal that would have had the paid personnel program up and running by May 15, but he noted that the board could have easily had it set up by late January.
Moving forward, the Bridgehampton Fire District will have to find a new control substance agent to replace Mr. Cammann. Such a position requires an individual who is a certified Advanced Life Support provider, and Mr. Cammann, along with Joseph P. Louchheim, were the only two members of Bridgehampton Fire Rescue who hold such credentials. Mr. Louchheim, publisher of The Press, said that he also would not have the time to take on the responsibilities of the control substance agent.
But losing its narcotics division does not put Bridgehampton Fire Rescue at risk of losing its credentials as an Advanced Life Support agency. Although New York State last year decided to make it mandatory, by May 31 of this year, for such agencies to have a controlled substance division in order to maintain their credentials, according to Tom Lateulere, chief of education and training for the Suffolk County Department of Health Emergency Medical Services division, an agency in Suffolk County challenged that decision, and now all agencies in the county will be required to have a division at a later, unspecified date. Mr. Lateulere noted, though, that while he has not spoken to anyone from Bridgehampton about the situation, the district should find someone to fill Mr. Cammann’s shoes soon.
“Bridgehampton will remain an ALS agency in Suffolk County,” he said this week. “We definitely will encourage them to start looking for another agent.”
Mr. Cammann agreed, stressing that it’s important for an ambulance to have narcotics available for when a patient needs them. Without them, Bridgehampton, which administers such drugs on calls about once a month, will have to call neighboring agencies for assistance, which could delay care by as much as 10 minutes.
When speaking to The Press, Mr. Cammann compared having narcotics for an ambulance company to doing the job of a reporter without a computer—not entirely necessary, but something that makes the job easier. “Realistically, the consumer, the patient, expects it,” Mr. Cammann said.