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Emmitsburg Ambulance reinstated

(4/24) Effective May 16, the Emmitsburg Volunteer Ambulance Service (EVAS) will be open again for business. Chief Tom Owens of the Frederick Department of Fire and Rescue Service (DFRS) made the decision to reinstate EVAC due in part to them providing the required a list of ten trained members. However concerns over the EVAS reliance on Mount St. Maryís students to meet the minimum staffing requirements persist, given the students will not be available to answer calls when school is out of session.

Dating back to 1998, EVACís failure rate and inability to meet county standards has come under extreme scrutiny. During those periods of suspension, EMS services has been provided by the Vigilant Hose Company (VHC).

The most recent issues concerning the Emmitsburg Volunteer Ambulance Company began in December of 2013 when the DFRS came to the leadership of the VHC and asked if they would be willing to house the county ambulance in their station along with the 24/7 career EMS staff then assigned to the EVAC.

While the EVAS will be re-instated, it will be answering calls without the current career county EMS staff. The staff has requested not to be transferred back to the EVAS as they were uncomfortable with the work environment at the EVAC and did not want to go back. The career EMS staff will be transferred to other stations and replaced with different EMS personal.

A stipulation made by Chief Owens for reinstating EVAC is that they would begin serious discussions with the VHC concerning a merger or consolidation of the two organizations. This is not the first time the suggestion has been made to merge the two companies.

In an editorial to community of Emmitsburg, published in this edition of the paper, Tim Clarke, President of the VHC said the Emmitsburg Ambulance Company "has been struggling for many years with recruiting and retaining members and key leaders for the organization to the point DFRS has repeatedly asked VHC to step in and provide a location and leadership to the career EMS staff."

The explanation provided to the VHC Leadership was that there were serious work environment concerns for their career personnel at the EVAC and they wanted the career staff moved to another location to hopefully alleviate the issue while continuing to provide quality EMS service to the community. VHC agreed to assist as requested.

EVAC was contacted several times for a statement, but failed to respond.


An open letter to the Community of Emmitsburg on EMS services

Tim Clarke
President, Vigilant Hose Company

The Vigilant Hose Company (VHC) wants you, the citizens of the Emmitsburg area and northern Frederick County to have a better understanding of what is about to happen with the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) in Emmitsburg. For years we have been sitting on the sidelines observing how different county entities have dealt with the difficulties associated with EMS delivery to the Emmitsburg citizens and all the surrounding communities we serve both in Maryland and Pennsylvania. We feel it is time we must speak up about the ongoing situation.

Currently as of this writing, Fire, Rescue, and EMS Service is provided primarily from the VHC located at 25 West Main Street and has been since the beginning of 2014 as well as several times in the past. This is about to change based on a decision made by the Department of Fire and Rescue Service (DFRS) and Frederick County Government. You have enjoyed the best service this community has known in a long time. The Emmitsburg Volunteer Ambulance Company (EVAC) has been struggling for many years with recruiting and retaining members and key leaders for the organization to the point DFRS has repeatedly asked VHC to step in and provide a location and leadership to the career staff of Frederick County. The service that your tax dollars are paying for.

For the purpose of clarity, when you dial 911 and ask for an Ambulance a unit is dispatched from the Vigilant Hose Company staffed with two Emergency Medical Technicians employed by the Frederick County DFRS and stationed at the Vigilant Hose Company to provide 24/7 Emergency Medical Delivery Service. This is the same service that has been delivered to the community for years.

The most recent issues concerning the Emmitsburg Volunteer Ambulance Company began in December of 2013 when DFRS of Frederick County came to the leadership of the Vigilant Hose Company and asked if we would be willing to house an ambulance in our station along with the 24/7 career EMS staff assigned to the EVAC. The explanation provided to the Vigilant Hose Company Leadership was that there were serious work environment concerns for their career personnel at the EVAC and they wanted the career staff moved to another location to hopefully alleviate the issue while continuing to provide quality EMS service to the community. VHC agreed to assist as requested and was happy to do so, just as we have done in the past when issues arose with the service delivery from the EVAC. These recent service delivery issues are not new to the EVAC and are part of the public record. You are encouraged to research the difficulties associated with the EVAC since they are too numerous to outline in this release.

At the same time, the Frederick County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association (FCVFRA) Executive Committee recommended that the EVAC be suspended until the requirements to operate as an EMS Service Provider were met, specifically their ability to provide a list of 10, trained to the standard, members that live in a 5 mile radius of the EVAC. Additionally, the Executive Committee wanted to see a detailed plan of action to address what they identified as serious organizational and leadership deficiencies within the organization that lead to the current recommendation.

The Frederick County Commissioners agreed with the FCVFRA and suspended the EVAC. All funding from Frederick County was suspended along with this action.

In the fall of 2014, the EVAC was removed from suspension and placed in service, on a probationary status, running 2nd due calls. This decision was made as a result of providing the required number of names by utilizing students living on campus at Mount Saint Maryís University, not permanent residents capable of service to the citizens of the Emmitsburg area year round. (We fully support allowing students from Mount Saint Maryís University into membership and have several members ourselves, but we do not expect or anticipate receiving service from them 365 days a year and their names are not submitted to the county to satisfy our 10 list requirement, nor would they ever be used.) The EVAC was then evaluated by senior DFRS staff to determine if the career staff should return to their station or remain at the VHC. IN MARCH OF 2015, SENIOR DFRS STAFF REPORTED TO THEIR CHIEF (Then Chief Denise Pouget) THAT IT WAS THEIR OPINION THAT THE CAREER STAFF SHOULD REMAIN AT THE VIGILANT HOSE COMPANY PERMANENTLY AND NOT BE RETURNED TO THE EMMITSBURG VOLUNTEER AMBULANCE COMPANY.

After several more meetings with key leadership within the VHC, as president, I was instructed to communicate to DRFS Chief Tom Owens, that we felt that EMS delivery in the Emmitsburg Community had never been better than it currently is today. We recommended that the career staff remain in our station because all career staff concerns of an uncomfortable working environment had disappeared once they were transferred to the VHC. As they say, if it is not broke, donít fix it, leave well enough alone. Additionally, we petitioned the county to just make a decision so we could move forward and this constant volley back and forth could come to an end.

On April 1, 2015, Chief Tom Owens made a final decision regarding the EVAC and the career EMS staff. The EVAC was completely reinstated and the career EMS staff would be moved back to the EVAC on May 16, 2015, again based primarily on providing a list of trained members consisting of a significant number of Mount Saint Maryís University students. Additionally, the current employees housed at the VHC would be transferred to other stations and replaced with different employees trained at the same level. In other words, six new individuals that have never been stationed in the Emmitsburg area will be placed in their station on May 16, 2015.

The FCVFRA did not approve or reject this decision, but it must be stated that they have yet to receive a purposed plan of action from the EVAC to address issues of leadership, recruitment, retention, and service delivery as previously requested at their suspension of service.

Along with this decision by DFRS Chief Owens, to reinstate service from the EVAC, came a condition that the EVAC would begin serious discussions with the VHC concerning a merger or consolidation of the two organizations. The VHC is not opposed to these discussions and in fact has reached out to the EVAC in the past to offer such a plan which was rejected.

The VHC applauds the county for making a final decision concerning the EVAC and career staffing. We however, respectfully disagree with the decision and anticipate repetitive problems concerning the EVACís organizational and leadership abilities moving forward. We are committed to making sure the community receives the most professional and quality Emergency Medical Service Delivery moving forward and will be working closely with the EVAC and DFRS to secure those goals for all the citizens we serve.

I highly recommend this situation be closely monitored by everyone and not simply ignored as the underlying challenges to EMS delivery have not been resolved.

I encourage anyone that has any questions regarding this matter to email me directly at tclarke@vhc6.com. If you would like to speak with someone in person please leave your contact information in the email.

 

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