By Nancy Lindsey\r\nThe discussion about improving emergency medical services (EMS) at the Feb. 29 meeting of the Patrick County Board of Supervisors was much more low-key than the Feb. 8 meeting, when furious words were hurled and nothing was resolved.\r\nThe two meetings had that in common: there was also no resolution at the recent gathering of supervisors, county officials, fire and rescue volunteers and citizens from all over the county.\r\nThe problem of short-staffed rescue squads and missed or delayed emergency calls was addressed at the meeting\u2014one of many conversations held in recent months.\r\nAbout 40 people attended the meeting, but only a few people spoke during the public comment period.\r\nJane Fulk of the Dan River District, a member of the Ararat Rescue Squad, said if the board decides to establish a quick response vehicle (QRV) and it\u2019s headquartered in Stuart, it would have no benefit to the western part of the county.\r\nPaying volunteers is a better solution, Fulk said, adding that her squad pays an advanced life support (ALS) provider $40 per call, an emergency medical technician (EMT) $20 per call, and a driver $10 per call.\r\nFulk also suggested the possibility of combining the Ararat, Willis Gap, and Claudville (CCDF) squads, with a similar combination in the eastern areas of the county, and having an ALS person available for all the squads.\r\nDale Puckett of the Dan River District advised the board to \u201cmake it easier\u201d for a rescue squad member to obtain training and certification, which he said would improve recruitment and retention of volunteers.\r\nRay Wells of the Smith River District, a paramedic, agreed that some solution needs to be found, and it can\u2019t be expecting an ambulance to travel from Stuart to Ararat for an emergency call.\r\nWells said he recently heard a situation in which a person needing emergency medical care had to wait 51 minutes before help arrived. In the meantime, dispatchers were \u201ctoning out\u201d squads countywide and pleading for mutual aid.\r\nSmith River District Supervisor Crystal Harris, captain of the Smith River Rescue Squad, commended all the volunteers who attended the meeting and work hard to help their neighbors.\r\n\u201cWe\u2019re trying to work something out,\u201d Harris said.\r\n\u201cWhat the answer is I still don\u2019t know,\u201d said Peters Creek District Supervisor Rickie Fulcher, \u201cbut ideas are being brought to the table.\u201d\r\nThe solution must be what works best for the rescue squads and helps them take care of their patients, he said.\r\nFulcher said his aunt had a stroke and she lay in the local hospital for four hours waiting for transportation to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C.\r\n\u201cThat is not acceptable,\u201d Fulcher said. \u201cOnce a solution is found we\u2019ve got to support it.\u201d\r\nBlue Ridge District Supervisor Karl Weiss, paraphrasing a comment made at the Feb. 8 meeting, said no matter what decision the board reaches, \u201cit\u2019s not going to create more time\u201d for the volunteers.\r\n\u201cWe\u2019re going to do something,\u201d Weiss said. \u201cIt\u2019s a good idea to get all the input we can get.\u201d\r\nHe said there are several ways to fund a paid service, if that\u2019s what the board decides to do, including soft billing (sending bills but not actually collecting from someone unable to pay) and passing a restaurant meals tax.\r\nExisting paid services should be doing inter-facility transports and transfers, not volunteer rescue squads, Mayo River District Supervisor Lock Boyce said. When those squads are gone to Winston-Salem, N.C. or Martinsville, it leaves their area of Patrick County \u201cunguarded,\u201d he said.\r\nHowever, Boyce said, \u201cno patient should be denied transport to an emergency center.\u201d\r\nBoyce said a QRV could not do patient transfers or bill patients for services.\r\nVolunteers are not usually inundated with emergency calls, Boyce said, noting that Ararat Rescue Squad receives an average of three a week; Vesta gets \u201ctwo-point something;\u201d CCDF gets about six per week; Smith River receives five or six; Blue Ridge gets one call every two weeks, and J.E.B. Stuart gets about 25 a week.\r\nWith those low-call numbers, paid rescue squads would be \u201cdoing a lot of TV-watching and pizza-eating,\u201d Boyce said.\r\nDan River District Supervisor Roger Hayden, board chairman, said the three squads in his district do not want a paid service, and the majority want to keep an all-volunteer service. He said training and certification should be done at the individual squad buildings rather than at a central location in Stuart.\r\nIf there is a paid service, why would the volunteers want to go on calls, Hayden asked.\r\n\u201cBecause they want to serve their communities,\u201d said Ronald Terry, assistant chief of the Meadows of Dan Volunteer Fire Department. \u201cIf you pay me $500 in cash, it\u2019s not going to make me answer any more calls than I do now.\u201d\r\nWeiss said he is in favor of a paid ambulance service that can do soft billing and supplement the work of the volunteer rescue squads.\r\n\u201cI want to help the volunteers, not hurt them,\u201d Weiss said.\r\nHarris said she pushed former emergency management coordinators to get EMT classes started and recruit young members. \u201cYoung people should already be part of the EMS system,\u201d she said.\r\nHarris asked Steve Allen, emergency management coordinator, how many high school students finished EMS training this year. Allen said there were two from Patrick County High School and one from Trinity Christian Academy.\r\nHarris said she had not done 30 years of volunteer service to get paid.\r\n\u201cMy job paid my electric bill and my volunteer work paid my soul,\u201d she said.\r\nFulcher said he was not in favor of a QRV. \u201cThe focus should be to get the patient to a facility as soon as possible,\u201d he said.\r\nWells said there was a fact in the Harvard Medical School article mentioned by Boyce that should be pointed out. According to the article, BLS (basic life support) ambulances were shown to be more effective in saving lives than ALS ambulances.\r\nHowever, the study was done in urban or metropolitan areas (not rural like Patrick County) where the closest hospital was five minutes away, Wells said.\r\nWeiss said he had recently met a man in Christiansburg who was being honored for serving 50 years in a rescue squad and making 44,000 documented calls.\r\nWeiss asked the man, \u201chow can we get volunteers who\u2019ll stay? It\u2019s a different world out there.\u201d\r\nThe veteran said his squad had 30 volunteers and paid for their training, but the problem was the same as in Patrick County: not enough time.\r\n\u201cI asked him if he would recommend going to paid squads, and he said, \u2018absolutely,\u201d Weiss said.