The county’s Operational Medical Director told the Patrick County Board of Supervisors that EMS squads in the Meadows of Dan/Vesta areas are struggling to respond to calls.
Dr. Jason Edsall was asked to discuss EMS call volumes and response times at the Nov. 21 meeting with Patrick County Emergency Management Services (EMS) Director Scottie Cassell.
Edsall noted that Station 8, the county’s paid service, responds to calls not covered by the local rescue squad.
Data indicated the Vesta Volunteer Rescue Squad covered 11 to 12 percent of its calls. Out of 165 calls for service the squad received, it answered 19. The remainder were answered by Station 8.
The response time from Stuart to the Meadows of Dan/Vesta areas “can be not a great way to get from here to there, and if you’re having a heart attack 20 minutes matters,” Edsall said.
“The long and the short of it is Vesta is struggling. It’s not good that Vesta’s struggling, and it’s not a point of excitement that Vesta is struggling,” Esdall said, and added the county needs to consider how to best serve those areas.
“If Station 8 is going to be their (Vesta’s) back up, it would be better if Station 8 was closer” to those communities, he said. “The short answer from a pure medical standpoint is yes.”
Esdall said the expense of assigning an EMS vehicle in the area would be expensive considering the cost of a vehicle and staffing.
He said he believes the county should take opportunities for growth one unit at a time and not “wait until the whole system collapses on itself and we have a whole county understaffed.”
Esdall said another opportunity for growth is potentially Ararat Volunteer Rescue Squad and Blue Ridge Rescue Squad.
“They serve similar areas in the Southwestern portion of the county, and they are both manned by a similar roster of personnel. So, we have sort of a duplication of effort between Ararat and Blue Ridge stations,” he said.
Consolidating the two stations, Esdall said, could prolong the life expectancy of the volunteer system there.
Esdall said the lower numbers of volunteers is not the fault of the volunteers.
“It’s not a laying blame game. This is not saying ‘you should do this, and you should do that.’ Society has changed and volunteerism and EMS is very difficult now,” Edsall said. “There are very few employers that will let people off during the day to go run a call.”
He estimated each call takes a minimum of two- hours.
Doug Perry, of the Smith River District, said a potential solution to the problem in the Meadows of Dan area is to create a hybrid system. His idea would have a second truck with half the staff operate out of Vesta Rescue Squad about 80 hours a week to supplement squad volunteers.
“There’s time where volunteers are more likely to answer calls. When volunteers are able to answer the calls, that’s when the half crew wouldn’t be out. But then when volunteers typically can’t answer the calls, that’s when we would have the paid staff operate out of Vesta,” he said.
Howard Alderman, captain of the Vesta squad, said it is willing to work with Station 8.
The board also heard a report from Kurt Bozenmayer, who was appointed to the Tourism Advisory Council (TAC) in June 2021. Bozenmayer said he has worked with Tourism/Recreation Coordinator James Houchins since the position was expanded earlier this year.
“I am pleased to report that Mr. Houchins has enthusiastically embraced his new duties, has worked very well with the council, and has some innovative ideas for the expansion and improvement of the role of the Tourism Department,” he said.
Bozenmayer said revenues received from the transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) recovered from the COVID-19 crisis and have increased over the last two years “to the extent that the county is showing a surplus in the TOT funds for the last two years.”
While he understands that the county budget process was conservative for tourism since the departure of the last director, Bozenmayer believes a satisfactory explanation was ever given for the conversion of the two full-time tourism positions into two part-time positions.
“While the county administration may feel that an explanation is not owed to the public, I am concerned that the issue was never discussed with” TAC, he said.
When he raised this question to the supervisor liaison to TAC, Bozenmayer said he was told it was a “personnel issue,” and that would be handled in closed session by the board.
“I understand that issues regarding the performance and compensation of individual employees are appropriately kept confidential, but I feel that the question of whether a department is adequately staffed does not fall into that category,” Bozenmayer said. “Especially when the salaries and expenses of that department are not borne by county taxpayers, but instead come from a TOT fund that is currently showing a surplus of hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Houchins is poised to present several ideas to improve tourism and the county, Bozenmayer said, adding that he hopes county administration will work with Houchins and TAC to allocate some of the fund surplus without delaying them to the fiscal year 2023-2024 budget.
In other matters, the board:
*Approved the meeting minutes.
*Approved the bills, claims, and appropriations.
*Approved a resolution honoring Keith Bocock for this work with the county. The board presented the resolution to his wife Debbie Bocock.
*Heard from One Family Productions Executive Director Chris Prutting about the 50th annual Patrick County Christmas Parade.
*Heard an update from Patrick County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rebecca Adcock.
*Heard an update from Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Resident Engineer Lisa Price-Hughes about county projects.
*Approved a resolution to join the VA America’s Revolutionary 250 Commission.
*Heard an update from Public Service Authority (PSA) Executive Director Mark Vernon.
*Approved American Rescue Plan Act (APRA) requests totaling $150,282.
*Approved Handbook updates.
*Heard from Sheriff Dan Smith and interim Clerk of Court Morgan Boothe about required security measures for the Patrick County Circuit Court building.
*Discussed county insurance with Sam Irby, of Innovative Insurance Group.
*Approved moving forward with Auto Launch to assist with local Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
*Awarded Schnabel Engineering the Request for Proposal (RFP) for Ararat Watershed Dam inspections.
*Heard a broadband update from Patrick County Economic Development Director Sean Adkins.
*Appointed Paige Terry to the Patrick County Parks and Recreation Committee for the Dan River District.
*Heard the County Administrator’s report.
*Heard the Supervisors’ reports.
*Approved countywide billing for the rescue squads that wish to do it. As of Nov. 21, that includes Station 8, Vesta Volunteer Rescue Squad, and Smith River Volunteer Rescue Squad.
*Approved forming an Emergency Services Advisory Committee (ESAC).
*Tabled a discussion of funding a staffed second truck for Station 8.
*Approved starting the hiring process for the Recreation Coordinator position.
*Approved paying the increase per in the rental agreement with the Rotary Club of Stuart for the amount of $3,379.70.