Like most squads, MEVAC dangerously low on numbers


By David Avitabile

To make ends meet, many people now have to work two jobs. In addition, families have numerous obligations such as soccer, Scouts, and other clubs and organizations.
Unfortunately, these extra draws on free time leave precious little time for organizations that rely on volunteers.
One of those organizations is MEVAC.
The Middleburgh ambulance squad will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year. The squad has about 20 active members, some more active than others, and is in desperate need of EMTs and drivers, according to Ed Lindsey, MEVAC captain.
MEVAC has about six or seven EMTS that ride on calls and three or more EMTs that are first responders and drive to the call on their own, Mr. Lindsey said. There are about 10 to 12 drivers.
With most people working, day times are especially tough to get volunteers, Mr. Lindsey noted.
"The nighttime isn't as bad."
MEVAC wants to be able to run "24 hours a day, 365 days a year" again, he added.
Though it would be preferable to get volunteers for the daytime, anytime is fine, Mr. Lindsey said.
"We have to have bodies, that's the bottom line."
The problem with the number of volunteers has been getting progressively worse over the years, noted Mr. Lindsey, who has been with MEVAC for three years and captain for one.
The issue, he added, is not just in Middleburgh.
"It's not just MEVAC, it's all volunteer organizations...
"It's a struggle every day to keep it going, but we do."
In addition to demands on free time, age and the amount of training needed are factors in having fewer volunteers, according to Mr. Lindsey.
Some of the active members for MEVAC have been with the squad for 25 to 30 years.
If someone gets sick or ill, it makes it harder to field a crew.
MEVAC answered between 375 and 400 calls last year and one driver alone went on about 140 of them, Mr. Lindsey said.
The training is a lot harder and strenuous for new EMTS.
The training locally is through the college and "a lot of people don't have the time."
The state pays for the training but it requires classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays for four to six months. In addition to classes, there are practicals and homework.
Even when someone becomes an EMT, they have to take courses each year to maintain the certification, he noted.
"It's not easy."
For drivers, MEVAC offers its own courses then has the volunteer ride with them on calls.
In an effort to recruit younger volunteers, MEVAC is going to the high school to get "junior" members.
"If we can get them started young" it is more likely they will remain on the squad, he said.
In the past, it was common for whole families to serve and people to say, "My father is volunteering, so will I," Mr. Lindsey said, but that is now rare.
The state does offer some incentive for the volunteers in a $200 tax allotment, he noted.
The squad is currently running from 6pm to 6am five days a week. There are also two weekends a month of full coverage, according to Mr. Lindsey. Mostly all nights are covered and the rest they can "patch together with volunteers."
The biggest need is during the daytime but MEVAC will accept volunteers for any time slots.
"I'm not going to turn down anybody," Mr. Lindsey said.
"The hardest thing to remember is people have lives."
Mr. Lindsey does not want to think of the alternative if there is no volunteer organization.
"If the volunteer organizations don't exist, there's no more soft billing," he stressed.
"If there's a call, you're going to get a bill."
Currently, MEVAC does not charge patients directly for calls. The bills are paid by the insurance companies which is called "soft billing."
He added, "If we're not here, you're going to be paying."
The new county EMTs, when hired, will help greatly, but it is not known when they will start, Mr. Lindsey noted.
Anyone interested in joining the squad can contact Mr. Lindsey at 708-1046 or any other member.
The MEVAC meetings are on the third Monday of the month at 7pm at the town barn on Cotton Hill Road.