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South County EMS

Regional EMS intends to include current EMTs

SOUTH DEERFIELD — The Board of Oversight for the South County Emergency Medical Service intends to include current EMTs on the current rosters of the local departments into the new regional service.

“We still have room for basic EMTs,” said Sunderland Fire Chief Robert Ahearn, a member of the board. “We’ll see who wants to move forward with it.”

Interested EMTs will have to wait, however, until the board finds and hires its first director. The board is leaving the hiring decisions and schedule up to that person, who is expected to be in place to start the service by March 1.

The board is working to implement a regional paramedic service providing 24-hour, seven-day-a-week coverage for the towns of Deerfield, Whately and Sunderland, a move voters in all three towns approved in October.

The primary ambulance would be based in the South Deerfield fire station for up to three years while the service looks for a permanent home. The backup ambulance would be in the Sunderland Public Safety Complex.

One paramedic and one basic or intermediate EMT would be scheduled for each shift.

The difference between the two levels is that paramedics can provide more advanced care. A basic EMT can perform basic life support and administer oxygen and glucose and other similar substances. A paramedic can administer shots and start intravenous care and use advanced airway management devices for breathing.

There are between 20 and 30 EMTs on the rosters of the Deerfield EMS and another 12 to 15 EMTs on the on-call staff in Sunderland. Whately has about 16 volunteer EMTs.

Deerfield has three full-time staff members, two of which are paramedics. Sunderland has one full-time EMT.

Ahearn said the state allows paramedic ambulances to run with basic EMTs.

The Deerfield Emergency Medical Service has submitted its application to the state to operate at the paramedic level. It expects to hear back on its application in February. The regional service could operate as a paramedic under Deerfield’s license

The board is requesting all existing EMTs go through a paramedic assist training course, which would be paid for by the South County Emergency Medical Service. Ahearn did not know the cost of the course.

Meanwhile, the board is looking to schedule per-diem EMTs and paramedics to provide 24/7 coverage now while the board looks for its full-time director, who would officially launch the service.

Welcoming the existing EMTs into the new paramedic service has always been the intention of the boards of selectmen and ambulance chiefs who proposed the shared service.

Before the proposal went before voters in October, the working group expressed their hope that current volunteers would have a role in the regional service.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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