Rescue is among the budget related issues the Patrick County Board of Supervisors are set to discuss at their May 8 meeting.
Denise Stirewalt, of Stuart, is hopeful help will be forthcoming for volunteer squads — and the county residents who depend on them, but she isn’t banking on it.
County officials “have talked about this for nine years,” Stirewalt said. “I just don’t understand” why the volunteers don’t have the help they need, she said.
Karl Weiss, who also serves on the Board of Supervisors, said many people think if they experience a medical emergency and call 911, a squad will come to help.
However, a call for help “does not mean an ambulance will show up at your door,” said Weiss. He is among the county officials looking for solutions to the issues confronting volunteer squads and members.
Issues include intensive training, funding challenges, fewer members, and members who must split their volunteer activities with other priorities that include work, family and personal commitments, according to previous reports.
“I appreciate the volunteers so much,” Stirewalt said. “They are so dedicated.” She added squad members need help.
Weiss and other supervisors have looked at a number of different options to help address the situation, according to previous reports. The list of options has been narrowed to two: Hiring a career staff or offering volunteers a stipend while paying to add a second 12-hour shift to LifeCare, a paid provider which operates one 12-hour shift out of the Pioneer Community Hospital of Stuart.
Stirewalt said she supports the first option. “I think the majority of people realize we need it,” she said of the opinion that is based on her own experience of delayed advanced treatment.
She recalled going to the Pioneer Community Hospital in Stuart, suffering with three different ailments: Rocky Mountain spotted fever, pneumonia and a collapsed lung.
Her condition required additional treatment, and she was referred to the Northern Hospital of Surry County in Mount Airy, N.C., less than 30 miles from Stuart, she said.
Stirewalt said she was told by hospital staff in Stuart that a volunteer squad had been summoned to transport her. Hours later, she said she was told there had been no response.
Later, Stirewalt said she was told a career crew with LifeCare — the paid provider which operates out of the local hospital — soon would report for their 12-hour shift, and they would take her to the Mount Airy hospital.
Once there, she spent several days of her six-day stay in the Intensive Care Unit, she said. After her condition improved, Stirewalt said the doctor told her that either one of the ailments she had could have been fatal.
In addition to serving as an elected official, Weiss’ other roles include those of a father and a son.
He recalled that when his mother had an aneurism in her stomach, a volunteer squad transported her to the local hospital, but like Stirewalt, she needed advanced treatment available at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C.
The person who transported Weiss’ mother to Stuart did not feel comfortable navigating the traffic in Winston, Weiss said. Another certified driver was not immediately available, he added.
Weiss said a man who had accompanied his own family member to the emergency room in Stuart learned of the situation, and that person volunteered to leave his family member to transport Weiss’ mother to Winston.
On another occasion, Weiss said his son-in-law was transported to the local hospital after being severely burned. He also needed additional treatment and was referred to the medical center in Winston.
Again, a squad was not available to provide transportation. Weiss used his personal vehicle to transport his son-in-law to the medical center, he said.
Before leaving the hospital in Stuart, Weiss said he was cautioned by the doctor to make sure his son-in-law stayed awake while en route, thus making the trip even more challenging.
“That is a situation nobody should be put in,” Weiss said.