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Sharpsburg signs up 12 EMT trainees

December 11, 1997

Sharpsburg signs up 12 EMT trainees

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

SHARPSBURG - About a dozen people have expressed interest in volunteering at the Sharpsburg ambulance company, enough to stem the immediate threat to the company's existence, officials said Wednesday.

But even if the new volunteers complete the training necessary to become emergency medical technicians, officials acknowledged long-term problems will remain.

Sharpsburg Area Emergency Medical Services currently has four active volunteers certified at the EMT level, six fewer than required by the Washington County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association.

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The association placed the squad on probation in July and threatened to shut it down by the end of the year if it did not meet the EMT requirement.

The fire and rescue association has said it will review the situation at the end of the month.

"I don't think the people realize how serious this place closing down is. How long are you willing to wait for an ambulance when it's your loved one?" said Deb Gargana, a Halfway Volunteer Fire Co. EMT who has been working as a temporary paid staffer in Sharpsburg.

Gargana said an ambulance coming from another company could take up to 30 minutes to reach a victim in Sharpsburg.

"If it's 25 to 30 minutes and someone's in cardiac arrest, why do we even bother?" she said.

While the results of an area-wide plea for help are encouraging, Gargana said the rescue squad is not necessarily out of the woods.

The 12 new volunteers, including two who attended a special membership meeting Wednesday night, must complete 116 hours of EMT training and pass background checks, she said.

Based on experience in Halfway, Gargana said she would expect several not to follow through.

Kim Mickelinc, a Martinsburg, W.Va., resident who volunteers with the South Berkeley Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, said she agreed to help the Sharpsburg company after reading an article in The Herald-Mail.

"There's a need to help other people," said Mickelinc, who said she knows a couple of Shepherd College nursing students who also are interested in volunteering.

Rescue squad leaders discussed relations with a contingent from the Sharpsburg Volunteer Fire Co., which has several EMTs. While firefighters said they would never let the ambulance company fail to respond because of lack of personnel - and indeed, many said they routinely run on ambulance calls - they were reluctant to commit to specified schedules.

The firefighters said they do not have the time to volunteer at the fire department and also obligate themselves to shifts at the ambulance company.

Former mayor Ron Milburn suggested the fire and rescue companies consider merging services. Such an arrangement would eliminate duplicative equipment and make better use of resources, he said.

Jay Grimes, president of the Washington County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association, suggested the companies might have to combine operations for at least a few months.

Firefighters said merger proposals have been discussed for a number of years, and Milburn suggested personality conflicts have prevented progress in the past.

"I'm hoping some of the barriers can be broken between the fire company and the ambulance company," he said.

Mickelinc said the notion of separate fire and rescue companies is strange to her since the services are combined in West Virginia.

"To sit here and have personalities involved - you have one goal This back and forth, I don't understand," she said.

Bill Myers, president of the rescue squad's board, said he is open to solutions.

"I think any and all aspects need to be considered at this time," he said.

Myers said that the company needs help in other areas, as well. Brigitte Heller, who chairs the association's EMS Committee, said the squad still has work to do in terms of establishing its leadership team.

"There's nobody to run for the offices. There's nobody to complete what needs to be done," said Heller, who was hired to oversee the company's paid staff.

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