Oswego officials express confidence in Fire Dept.

Update: 5:50pm

Late Wednesday afternoon, Oswego Mayor Randy Bateman contacted CNY Central. Bateman said "without a doubt" he has confidence in the professionalism of the Fire Department.

Bateman said the 39 letters of warning came because of a paper work issue. He said there were "definite violations," but it's "not as if people were left without care."

Original story:

In the wake of a stinging finding by the New York State Health Department against members of the Oswego City Fire Department, the head of the Oswego County Emergency Service is expressing confidence in the Fire Department.

Oswego County EMS Coordinator Jim Jones said he had "minimal involvement" in the Health Department investigation that noted he has a "high level of confidence" in the ability of the Fire Department to be part of the county's mutual aid system.

Jones says the decision by the Health Department to issue letters of warning to 39 members of the Fire Department in a "teachable moment." He is sure the fire department will correct the problems exposed by the state investigation.

Yesterday, CNY Central's Jim Kenyon broke the story that the Health Department issued warning letters as part of an 8 month investigation into allegations that members of the Oswego City Fire Department ambulance corps were refusing to transport patients. Health Department spokesman Jeffrey Hammond told Kenyon that he "wouldn't say they were turning away patients, but they were having other ambulances transport patients." CNY Central obtained a copy of one of the warning letters .

The letters of warning cited the individual members of the Fire Department for not filing prehospital care reports on many occasions.

Contacted by phone yesterday, Oswego Fire Chief Jeff McCrobie said "nothing is totally complete" and he would "not comment until all the investigations are concluded."

Hammond said the Health Department has concluded its investigation into individual members of the Fire Department, but the probe into the entire department as a whole is ongoing.

McCrobie said he will discuss the investigation publicly when the probe is done.

Oswego City Mayor Randy Bateman was unavailable for comment.

Oswego City Common Councilor Constance Cosemento said the finding came as a "great surprise" to her. She says the council "was not aware that they were under that kind of scrutiny."

"I always thought their operation was top-notch," says Cosemento.

Cosemento says she plans to open up her own investigation. She says she still has confidence in the Fire Department ambulance corps and would not hesitate to trust them with lives of her own family members.

The City of Oswego may have set the stage for allegations that the ambulance corps was turning away patients. Cosemento says the city required the Fire Department to restrict its transportation within city limits because taking patients to Syracuse was too costly in terms of transportation and overtime costs.

She revealed to CNY Central that the Fire Department has started a 30-day "pilot program," in which the Fire Department ambulance corps is taking patients to Syracuse. The program will determine the exact costs of the service.

Former Oswego City Alderman Ed Harrington, a frequent critic of Oswego City Hall, has a website with further information and public comments about this controversy.

For additional coverage of the Oswego City Fire Department, click here .