Squad reports 100 percent call response rate

Published 10:03 am Thursday, October 13, 2016

Since the beginning of this month, Cumberland Volunteer Rescue Squad (CVRS) has answered 100 percent of its calls for service.

The success comes as, for months, a dwindled volunteer base has struggled to answer emergency medical calls  in the county — resulting in the county’s board of supervisors paying off the debt owed on the CVRS building in exchange for making the squad a county agency.

Kevin Ingle

Kevin Ingle

The agreement also resulted in the county providing the rescue squad with paid crewmembers.

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“Beginning Oct. 1, as you are aware, we provided 24/7 coverage of the CVRS with a paid crew from Emergency Services Solutions,” County EMS and Fire Chief Tom Perry said during the board’s Tuesday meeting. “(I’m) happy to report that, as of today, there have been 25 calls for service in that … period and we have 100 percent success rate as far as answering the calls. No calls have been missed anywhere in Cumberland or in the Cartersville area.”

Along with the volunteers and paid crews with CVRS, Perry noted the Cartersville Volunteer Rescue Squad members “really have stepped up as well and covered their end of the county, and we’ve received a lot of positive feedback from all of the volunteers as well as the citizens.”

“By expanding their coverage times …, we were able to accomplish that 100 percent,” said District Three Supervisor Kevin Ingle, who also serves as the county’s director of emergency management. “It’s also an asset to the other two agencies, Cartersville Rescue Squad and Prince Edward (Volunteer Rescue Squad), to be able to have this type of resource as a mutual aid. And we look forward to working with all three agencies to try to optimize the coverage for Cumberland County.”

Tom Perry

Tom Perry

During its September meeting, the board voted unanimously to assume ownership of the assets and pay off the $65,923 debt of the CVRS. The exchange came as the agency faced shutdown.

According to Ingle, the exchange was intended to give the four “burned-out” volunteers an opportunity to channel back into routine shifts “and become volunteers again who are actually making a difference. They were so burnt out, they were ready to shut the whole system down.”

Ingle said in September the county was looking forward to “24/7 paid coverage” because CVRS didn’t have the necessary volunteers.

“The truth is that we don’t have enough volunteers and staff to cover the county,” CVRS President Dr. R.K. Elswick said following the decision.

Elswick said county supervisors were “uncomfortable” with allocating the necessary funds to increase paid crew members in light of a small volunteer base.

He said it was the agency’s desire to transfer its assets to the county.

“We gave it to them in order to help the citizens of the county receive good EMS service,” Elswick said.

According to Ingle, the county began making additional contributions to the CVRS about a year-and-a-half ago because of its having fewer volunteers. He said volunteers were only running with CVRS in the evenings and on weekends and not at all during the day.

“They were at the point where they were ready to shut their doors and to liquidate all assets,” Ingle said.

He said revenue recovery — billing patients for transportation — has helped, but not enough to sustain operations without county assistance. The paid daytime response came about a year-and-a-half ago, Ingle said.

Ingle said discussions between the county and CVRS have gone on for several months. He said it wouldn’t be “very responsible” to taxpayers if supervisors continued allocating money for the squad to remain operational.

Administrative work, which was being handled by volunteers, is now being handled by county offices, including financial administration and revenue recovery. Ingle said this includes the hiring and management of EMS crews.

“This was not a hostile takeover of the CVRS,” Ingle stressed. “Cumberland County did not go in and grab and take it from them. This came through a series of meetings, finding out what each other’s needs (were).”

During his report to the board, Perry said that he was still working on an association agreement between the five fire and EMS agencies in the county, calling it “a work in progress.”