CHURCH HILL –A trial program in which a Queen Anne’s County paramedic unit was stationed at the town firehouse for 60 days proved so successful that an effort is underway to place a unit there permanently.
Both the Queen Anne’s County Department of Emergency Services and the Church Hill Volunteer Fire Department want to see it happen but the question is whether there’s money available to pay for it.
A joint committee from both agencies is working on a plan to station a unit at the firehouse even though there’s currently no money for it in the county budget, said Kevin Aftung, Chief of the Department of Emergency Services. He said the funding matter will be taken before the county commissioners in October.
“It’ll be difficult to expand when money is tight,” Aftung said.
He estimates that it would cost about $250,000 to hire a minimum of four full-time people to man a paramedic unit in Church Hill.
The Church Hill Volunteer Fire Department says that having a county paramedic unit at the firehouse for a 60-day pilot program from early April through early June was an enormous benefit.
“We have a real need,” said Fire Chief Charles Jester. “It’s a big geographic area. We’re the second largest area in the county and our issue is staffing.”
He said fire departments everywhere are experiencing a decline in volunteerism, due in part to the difficult economy and the fact that some volunteer firefighters work two jobs and can’t get away to answer calls.
“This is happening at time when our call volume is increasing,” Jester explained. “We used to have 100 calls a year but now there are 900 a year for ambulance and fire calls.”
Jester said the fire department approached the Department of Emergency Services earlier this year to explain its predicament and see if it could help. That led to the 60-day pilot program in which the paramedic unit normally stationed near the old helicopter facility at the State Police barrack was moved to Church Hill and manned by a two-person crew from8 a.m.to5 p.m.Monday through Friday.
“The 60-day trial period showed a need. The trial went well and there was an excellent partnership,” Aftung said, particularly in the Kingstown/Chester Harbor areas where many of Church Hill’s calls come from.
“The trial was successful. This is a win-win for everyone,” said Jester.
A second 60-day pilot program using the barrack paramedic unit began on Aug. 13 to gather additional data, according to Aftung.
He said Church Hill would like to have a paramedic unit there seven days a week from7 a.m.to5 p.m.each day, but is also looking at other options including the possibility of a Monday through Friday operation, at least initially.
County paramedic units are currently stationed at theKentIsland, Queenstown, Goodwill, and Sudlersville firehouses in addition to the one normally at the barrack.
The response area for the Church Hill Volunteer Fire Department –bothEMSand fire –stretches from theChesterRiverto the north, to Brown’s Corner near the intersection of Route 213 andHatchett Roadto the south, to theLand’s End Roadarea to the west, and toBridgetownto the east. It’s about a 70-square-mile-area, Jester said earlier.
Read the original here:County, town want paramedic in Church Hill – My Eastern Shore.