Craig County prepares for paid EMS staff in future
CRAIG COUNTY – At the Sept. 13 meeting, members of the Craig County Board of Supervisors voted to accept an ambulance being donated to the county by Roanoke County. This ambulance has been fully equipped by Craig County to state standards and is the second emergency vehicle for the new county-run emergency medical services agency. The first is a quick response vehicle equipped for advanced life support.
County Administrator Richard Flora said that neither vehicle is currently staffed on a regular basis with duty personnel, but explained that the donated ambulance is part of the county’s plan to ensure that residents receive EMS coverage and service consistent with the standards mandated by the state.
“We support and encourage our volunteer rescue squads, but recognize the difficulty in staffing, particularly during weekdays when many volunteers work out of the county.” He said that this is a nationwide problem, not just a problem for Craig County.
Flora stated that the county is ultimately responsible for the level and quality of emergency services. It was decided last year that the most cost-effective, long-term solution was to provide for part-time paid staffing handled through a county agency, under the direction of Emergency Services Coordinator Jim Cady.
The new ambulance and quick response vehicle can be staffed on an as-needed basis to support the county volunteer rescue squads when covering calls becomes an issue.
Flora emphasized that volunteers will be used to the greatest extent possible, with the part-time paid staff used only to fill any voids.
“We depend on and support the volunteers,” stated Flora. “We would prefer for the county agency not to have to run a single call. But our duty is to be prepared, and to ensure that adequate standards of EMS care are being met, and will continue to be met, for county residents.”
Said Cady, “Volunteer staffing will be used first, but if there is no scheduled coverage on the duty calendar with appropriately trained volunteer EMS providers, then the paid county staff will be scheduled to cover that day.” He also indicated that a mutual aid agreement has been signed between the volunteer squad and the county agency, to allow sharing of equipment, trucks and staff as needed.
According to Flora, most of the standby, part-time EMS staff that are already affiliated with the new county agency are Craig County residents, or from Craig County originally and now working elsewhere. “Many are paid staff working for other jurisdictions,” he said.
Shawn Matheney, Chief of Craig County Volunteer Rescue Squad, said that the volunteer and county agencies will work together as needed to get the job done. “We intend to make sure emergency medical services are there for Craig County. It is good for my peace of mind to know that, should times come when our volunteers are not able to answer calls, a back-up plan is in place. Our common goal is to continue to serve the community with the best possible services.”
– Carol Lewis, Contributing Writer