According to Heidi Taylor, Deerfield Valley Rescue business manager, merging the territories has been a smooth process, with DVR gaining seven new members, including five former volunteers of WASI. As part of its new coverage plan, DVR is keeping the former WASI station in Jacksonville open and will receive the WASI ambulance. Since the takeover, DVR has already responded to 11 calls in Whitingham.
Deerfield Valley Rescue took over the coverage area after WASI was unable to keep up with state staffing, funding, and performance requirements. WASI had only nine volunteers to cover 140 calls last year, and changes to state requirements on the number of licensed staff members trained to perform emergency medical services in the vehicle helped to put WASI on a 90-day probationary period earlier this year.
WASI tried to save the service with a proposed tax on Whitingham and Halifax residents to fund a full-time staff of EMTs, but as their conditional license was set to run out, WASI decided to pursue a takeover of services by DVR instead. Halifax and Whitingham’s selectboards each signed agreements, which require DVR to cover the remaining six weeks of fiscal year 2013, using funds already appropriated and paid by the towns to WASI. As previously reported, a second agreement was signed by the two town boards to cover service for fiscal year 2014 (July 1 - June 30) with $14,400 to be paid quarterly. This equals the amount previously budgeted for ambulance service and will be paid out of monies approved by voters at Town Meeting.
“We try to schedule our volunteers living there to respond with the ambulance in Jacksonville,” said Taylor. “Our response times have gone very well.”
Taylor also said that the Whitingham Fire Department is starting a first responder service, with a truck containing equipment provided by DVR. Of the seven new DVR members, two are certified EMTs, while the other five are working on their certification. There are also 18 members currently attending emergency responder classes being held in Whitingham.
While WASI is no longer providing emergency services, the company is still a legal entity, and is going through the process of shoring up its final financial obligations. According to WASI president Christina Moore, the final paychecks were written last weekend, and medical records have been handed over to DVR. “There is no formal answer on when WASI will be officially dissolved,” said Moore. “The firehouse has changed the keys to the door. It’s operated by DVR now, but I wish it had happened more smoothly. I hoped during the last year of talking we collaborated more on some solutions but that’s all right.”
Lori Williams is one of the new DVR volunteers who responds to the Jacksonville station. Williams was WASI’s only full-time paid employee at the time of the takeover, working Monday-Friday, 6 am-6 pm. “It was tough for me” said Williams. “I worked at WASI full time for nine years, and was informed a month and a half before the takeover that I could only volunteer.
“There is a stipend for being on call, but I’m doing the same job, but for free now.”
Vermont’s emergency medical services rules say that whenever an ambulance service transports a patient, the ambulance must be staffed by at least two people, at least two of whom must be either a physician or Vermont EMS certified. With seven new members, Taylor says the DVR now has a roster of 30 volunteers, and is finding it easy to meet those requirements.