Squad Care still ‘best deal’

Published 11:16 am Thursday, October 20, 2016

For the 48th year, the Prince Edward Volunteer Rescue Squad (PEVRS) is once again conducting a drive for what many have called the best deal in town: Squad Care.

Launched in 1968, the rescue squad covers 1,364 units for a total of around 6,500 people. There are 40 squad members, including Hampden-Sydney College and Longwood University students, retirees and other residents. Its equipment includes five ambulances, a crash truck, quick response vehicle and a six-wheeler. In 2015, these vehicles collectively traveled 46,754 miles to answer 3,144 calls.

A little more than 45 percent, or 1,432, of those calls came from Farmville. Another 40 percent (1,272) of the calls came from Prince Edward, nearly 13 percent (408) from Cumberland and just more than 1 percent (32) from other neighboring areas.

Email newsletter signup

Most of the calls, about 64 percent, were related to medical emergencies (2,005). The next largest number of calls, about 10 percent (324), was for traumatic injuries. These were followed by calls concerning motor vehicle accidents (approximately 9 percent, 282), falls (approximately 9 percent, 275) and cardiac-related issues (approximately 8 percent, 258).

PEVRS President and spokesman Bill Hogan said the numbers are substantial when you take Prince Edward County’s size into consideration.

“We have about 35-40 members on the squad — that’s the same as in 1969 and 1970 when we were running only 300 calls a year,” Hogan said.

Funding for Squad Care comes primarily from insurance reimbursements, including Medicare. Squad Care covers an entire family unit for the uninsured expanses of medically necessary ambulance transports to Centra Southside Community Hospital. Aside from the $35 per family unit annual membership and insurance reimbursements, Squad Care also relies on charitable giving and grants.

Hogan said Squad Care is probably one of the best programs he’s ever known.

“It’s a way for the community to save tax dollars,” Hogan said. “We bill the insurance and it doesn’t cost the county anything. It’s a co-payment, really, but it’s not insurance — it covers what the insurance doesn’t cover.”

Squad Care funding also helps with the major costs of equipment. State-required equipment includes defibrillators ($25,000), CPR machines ($13,000), stretchers ($22,000 each) and a lift for the back of an ambulance ($42,000). That’s where the grants come in.

This year, the squad is facing the possibility of an extra major expense: replacing the engine to a relatively new vehicle.

“It’s only got 24,000 miles on it, but the glow plug for the diesel engine dropped onto a piston and blew the engine,” Hogan said. “Because the truck sat on the assembly line for a year, the manufacturer is saying it’s not under warranty. We’re fighting them on that because it’s a $15,000 engine.”

The squad tries to control expenses everywhere it can, Hogan said. Most of the Squad Care money, he said, goes to training.

“The state is cutting back on what it’s willing to spend on training and it’s very expensive. We have a class right now that costs about $5,000. We’re trying to keep people at the top of the class to provide service to the people of the county,” he said.

The PEVRS’ budget is about $700,000-$800,000 per year, with most of it coming from insurance reimbursements and some grants. At $35 per household, the 1,364 members’ fees comes to about $48,000. Still, Hogan said, every little bit helps and the $35 fee is a great bargain for anyone who chips in.

Since the average ambulance bill ranges from $400 to $700 per use, a family who may need an ambulance multiple times a year can save real money by only paying $35 a year.

“It doesn’t matter how many times you use it,” Hogan said, “and it’s about half of what they charge in other areas. In Richmond, they charge $75 per person.”

Current members will receive a renewal application through the mail. Those wanting to join can either apply online via www.princeedwardrescue.com or call (434) 392-6973 to request an application by mail.

Applications for Squad Care will also be available in The Farmville Herald on Oct. 28.