Volunteer responders could get OK to charge for transport

By Melissa Correa - bio | email

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - Chesterfield county leaders will discuss whether to include volunteer rescue squads in an ordinance which allows emergency responders to charge for emergency transportation.

Currently all Chesterfield Fire Departments plus the Ettrick-Matoaca Rescue Squad charge for a ride in one of these. The 3 other rescue squads don't. But after today's public hearing, they may have the option to start charging.

"Since 2002, Chesterfield Fire & EMS and Ettrick-Matoaca have been billing for EMS transports," says Ed Senter, Fire Chief for Chesterfield County.

The other 3 volunteer squads: Manchester, Forest View and Bensley-Bermuda still provide emergency transportation for free.   In Chesterfield County that's a lot of complimentary commutes.

"It's 30,000 calls per year, 75% of those calls are emergency-medical related," says Senter.

"And I'd say for our volunteers, their portion is in the thousands," says EMS Batallion Chief Mike Harmon.

If the 2002 ordinance is amended to include the remaining 3 rescue squads, volunteers could charge for services.

"Our base ambulance transport rate is, for basic life support, is $350 and it's $8.50 a mile," says Harmon.

Most insurance providers cover the costs.   Those who don't have insurance can pay the county $59 a year for unlimited emergency transportation.

"We re-distribute those funds back to the rescue squads which helps pay for their maintenance, their fuel, their supply costs," says Harmon.

Today, volunteer squad leaders are out of town at a conference.   Over the phone, Kathy Eubank with Manchester says the ordinance change would provide a last resort for her volunteers, and as of now, they have no plans to start charging.

"When you look at modern day emergency medical services, the types of services that we're providing are so far advanced from 30 years ago."

If the ordinance passes, it doesn't mean the three volunteer squads have to charge for emergency transportation, it just now gives them the option.

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