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Sharpsburg EMS out of turmoil

June 13, 1998|By LISA GRAYBEAL

SHARPSBURG - Almost a year since Sharpsburg Area Emergency Medical Services nearly folded in the midst of internal divisions and declining membership, officers and volunteers are seeing almost a full recovery of the organization they had to rescue.

"A lot of dedicated people came back and helped us get out of the bind we were in," said Danielle Beasley, captain and treasurer of the company.

But it wasn't long ago that the Sharpsburg native and dedicated ambulance volunteer cut back her hours when dissention among members and a variety of other problems riddled the organization meant to serve the community.

Last August, the Washington County Fire & Rescue Association placed the company on probation and assumed daily operations because the number of active emergency medical technicians had dwindled below the minimum of 10 required by the county.

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The company had already lost its state certification in Advanced Life Support because it did not have enough qualified paramedics. The area relied on coverage by ambulance companies from Williamsport and Boonsboro.

Meanwhile, 13-year Chief Larry Myers announced he was taking a 30-day leave of absence due to stress. He returned only to resign from the company for good.

Lack of professionalism, low morale, and poor business practices, among other accusations from volunteers, began bogging down the company.

"Nobody wanted to volunteer their time," said Bill Myers, president of the company.

Disgruntled members were putting their time in elsewhere and few new volunteers signed up to serve, he said.

But Myers said the company has made great strides in a year.

New Chief Lester Bussard took over at the beginning of this year, the officer positions have been filled, and the company's billing procedure is back on track as part of a huge reorganizational effort.

"We kind of tightened the reins. We run it like a business and we do it in a professional manner," he said.

In a year, volunteer numbers have shot up to more than 20 and, last month, the company got back its Advanced Life Support certification, Myers said.

A professional billing company that had been hired to catch up on the six months of billing that hadn't been done during the turmoil is now a permanent fixture, he said.

"I spend a lot of time down there. It's like my second home now, where before I didn't feel welcome. It's like a 100 percent turnaround," Beasley said.

Now volunteers and officers are working together for the common good of the company and forging new and repairing old relations in the community, she said.

The company has even scheduled a community EMS Day for August or September, co-hosted by the local fire company, which would've been unheard of a year ago, Beasley said.

"Members of both companies are working much better together," she said.

Company officials admit the reorganizational effort isn't over. Efforts to recruit more volunteers and raise money are ongoing, Beasley said.

But the strides made so far have at least put the emergency service back on track.

"The thing we really want is for the community to realize we have changed. The bottom line is to have a better service for the community," Beasley said.

Even through all of the problems, the community and past and present ambulance members never gave up hope and continued to support the company, Myers said.

"I think that's what it takes to make it go," he said.

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