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Whately EMS sees response improvements

Officials say they won’t panic if regional effort fails

WHATELY — If townspeople reject a proposed regional 24/7 paramedic ambulance, Whately officials won’t panic.

“I think in the long run, we’re better off with the regional service, but if we didn’t end up with the regional service, I will not be crying. We still have the local service,” Selectman Joyce Palmer Fortune said recently.

The sentiment follows news that a new system with on-call volunteer shifts and higher stipends have enhanced response to medical calls in recent months.

Whately Ambulance Director Gary Stone created the new system as an alternative to the proposed regional paramedic ambulance with Deerfield and Sunderland. Earlier this month, the board requested the data demonstrating improvements in the town service over the past six months.

Whately residents will be asked to join a regional ambulance service on Oct. 15 at a special town meeting.

Although Stone said he will support the regional venture, he said if the town service gets more volunteers, he believes it would fulfill the town’s ambulance needs.

“I hope there will still be a volunteer service,” Selectman Jonathan Edwards said. “I really appreciate how great you’ve been during this whole process. Whately owes you a huge debt of gratitude.”

The board has struck a similar tune as the Deerfield Board of Selectmen, which backs the regional approach, but will also put the local option before voters in October.

Since April, the Whately ambulance service has dropped its response time by an average of two minutes, down to 10 minutes, according to Stone. In total, there were 21 requests for medical assistance in April and May. Of those, 13 were coded as intermediate and/or basic-level responses, while eight were considered paramedic level.

Whately EMTs responded to 19 calls, while a “no response” was recorded for the remaining two calls. Of the 19 patients, 14 were transported by the Whately ambulance. The remaining calls were standby duties, mutual aid, cancellations or patient refusals.

Since the changes, the number of missed calls dropped from 49 percent to 9 percent.

The volunteer EMTs sign up for a 12-hour shift from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. using an online calendar. Two EMTs are scheduled per shift. There are no shifts during the day.

Previously, there were no shifts and volunteers would respond to a call, not knowing whether anyone else was responding.

“With shifts, people guarantee they’ll be there when there’s a call,” Stone said.

The pay also increased to better encourage volunteers to leave full-time jobs. Whately EMTs receive $25 per shift. If they respond to a call and transport a patient, they receive an additional $75. During the day, an EMT receives $100 to respond and transport.

The higher stipend contrasts with the previous $13.94 hourly rate.

Over the past six months, the Whately service added three EMTs, to total 17 volunteers. There are currently four paramedics, four intermediate EMTs and nine basic EMTs.

The Whately service is licensed at the intermediate level.

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