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Sharpsburg EMS on the mend

September 19, 1999|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

SHARPSBURG -It was just two years ago that things looked hopeless for Sharpsburg Area Emergency Medical Services.

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"There was no community support and no leadership," Tim Gargana, paramedic supervisor, said.

Members weren't getting along, volunteers dropped out and finances were in disarray. In August 1997, 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.

The company had already lost its state certification in Advanced Life Support because it did not have enough qualified paramedics. Medics from Boonsboro were being used to answer Sharpsburg calls.

The company had hit rock bottom, said Gargana.

"The doors were ready to be boarded up," he said.

A lot has changed since then. A restructuring of the organization has helped improve morale and create momentum, he said.

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"We've really risen from the ashes and turned things around," he said.

Former Capt. Lester Bussard now heads the ambulance company and Gargana was hired as full-time paramedic supervisor in January.

The change in personnel has created a more positive atmosphere that has brought in new volunteers and made former ones return, he said.

"Things have gotten a lot better," said Bardona Woods, emergency medical technician.

The company now employs nine part-time paramedics and has about eight volunteer emergency medical technicians.

"I feel we are much more appreciated now," said Nancy Bell, emergency medical technician.

"It's much more enjoyable now to volunteer. The atmosphere is friendlier, not the way it was before," said Lt. Tina Grimm, an emergency medical technician who also serves as the organization's secretary.

Sharpsburg regained its state certification and goes on about 600 calls a year, said Gargana.

Gargana said he regularly receives applications for personnel since the company made the staffing adjustments.

With changes in attitudes came a greater commitment to keeping staff trained and equipment up to date, he said.

Sharpsburg recently purchased two portable defibrillation machines for $16,000 each, protective gear and two beds for its ambulances.

Now that the company's operations are running smoothly, members are focusing on fund-raising efforts.

Sharpsburg's operations are funded through insurance billing, county grants, tip jar monies, and various fund-raisers, he said.

The group hopes this year's mailing campaign will raise $25,000, he said. Residents in Sharpsburg's 13,000 homes can expect to receive a letter with the details today.

In addition to providing a tax-deductible contribution to a nonprofit, life-saving organization, people who give to Sharpsburg can ultimately save money, said Gargana.

Since Sharpsburg bills insurance companies for all its calls, residents who contribute and use the service are not financially responsible for any money the insurance companies don't pay, he said.

The mailing proceeds will be used for equipment and training, he said.

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