Squad Care ‘the best deal in town’

Published 11:48 am Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Prince Edward Volunteer Rescue Squad, now in its 48th year, is conducting its annual Squad Care drive, a program that many have called “the best deal in town.”

Squad President Bill Hogan explained that Squad Care was initiated in 2000 to offset the rising cost of equipment and training — and to ease the burden on Prince Edward taxpayers.

“If we went to the county and town for funding to operate the squad, the taxes in the county would have to go up about 5 percent,” Hogan said.

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Currently the cost to operate the Prince Edward Squad for one year is $800,000.

“The Prince Edward Board of Supervisors provides $66,000, the same amount allotted to each of the county’s fire departments,” Hogan said. “In one month we run more calls than all the fire departments run in a year. We’re right at 280 calls a month.”

In the early days, the squad held fundraisers to provide operating expenses.

“In this day in time, we can’t sell enough pork butts to raise $800,000,” Hogan said.

Once Squad Care was initiated, Hogan explained, a cost recovery program of billing insurance and Medicare was started. This provided the solution for funding without overburdening taxpayers.

To enroll in Squad Care county residents pay a one-time fee of $35, which protects an entire household against out-of-pocket ambulance services for one year. The average ambulance bill ranges from $400 to $700, Hogan noted, a fact that easily verifies Squad Care’s “best deal in town” claim.

“We use some of that money for training squad members,” Hogan said. “We’re doing an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) class now with about 10 members.”

“We currently have seven or eight paramedics on staff and about 20 with advanced EMT training,” Hogan said. “The drivers course is another 16 hours of training.”

“We have a top-notch squad,” Hogan said. “We have professionals that know what they’re doing. Paramedics can do almost anything in the field that a doctor can perform in the emergency room.”

Now, for example, it is standard procedure for the squad to do an EKG when there is a complaint of chest pain.

“We transmit the EKG to the hospital, and the doctor sees it before the patient even arrives,” Hogan said.

If the patient is suffering a heart attack the doctor will alert a med-flight crew.

“A lot of times the helicopter will be en route before we get to the hospital,” Hogan said. “We had a recent patient with a heart attack, so we called from the scene with the EKG. The patient was in and out of Southside and into the cath lab in Lynchburg 42 minutes from the time we received the call.”

Hogan recently spoke to that person in town.

“That patient was fine — no residual effects,” Hogan said.

Squad funding also helps with another increasing cost — equipment. Equipment required by the state includes defibrillators, $25,000; CPR machines, $13,000; stretcher, $22,000 (each) and a lift for the back of an ambulance that costs $42,000. The squad applies for grants to help cover equipment costs.

“We sent our business manager Barbara Swinson to grant writing school,” Hogan said. 

Today’s squad includes a number of women and college students, Hogan added. When women first joined the squad in 1978, they were required to go home at 9 p.m., according to Nancy Haga who joined in 1984.

“Women have been a big asset,” Hogan said.

Hogan added that accidents involving children are the hardest.

“That’s the call that everybody gives 120 percent,” he said. “We’ve had calls that just rock the soul of a person.”

“That’s when you pray,” Haga said.

Haga related an incident involving a family from Connecticut.

“Both parents were sent to the hospital, so I took the two teenage boys home with me until the grandparents could get here,” Haga said. “Then the church put them in a van to send them home.”

This good deed inspired a church in the family’s hometown to initiate a similar ministry there.

Hogan shared his motivation for serving on the squad since 1971.

“I’ve always loved helping people,” he said.

Squad Care, as the name implies, carries on that tradition.

Applications for Squad Care will be available in The Farmville Herald Oct. 30. Application can also be made online at princeedwardrescue.com.