Volunteer Rescue Squads Short on Money: State cuts cause concern

By Matt Butner - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Volunteer rescue squads across the state are dealing with a monetary crisis. A proposed cut in state funding is just the latest challenge. Donations are down, and costs are rising. Now one local rescue squad is considering billing for ambulance rides. Many volunteer and paid EMS services already charge for transport to the hospital.

Not so for the Forest View Rescue Squad, which serves parts of Chesterfield and Richmond. But Operations Manager Walter Stephens says the free rides could soon be a thing of the past.

"We can see that our operating expenses can only sustain us for so long. That's why we have investigated the revenue recovery so that we could sustain our organization long-term," said Stephens.

A decline in donations, fueled by the recession, has contributed to the problem, as have rising costs of fuel and equipment. Now, the proposed shift of state money away from the Four for Life fund. That fund provides training at no cost to both volunteer squads and paid fire and EMS personnel.

"Last year, our agency was responsible for hosting 290 training classes and training 3,050 people," said Kenny Fernier.

Kenny Fernier is with the Virginia Association of Volunteer Rescue Squads, the group that coordinates the training. He says if the four for life funds are not restored; training classes would have to be scaled back or eliminated.

"In some localities, the training we provide is the only training that they get," he said.

"We depend on that money on a monthly basis," said Stephens.

Stephens says if forest view does decide to start charging for ambulance service, nothing else will change for the people they serve.

"We're still out there to answer the calls no matter what when you dial 911. It just means that we may ask for insurance information when we show up on scene," Stephens said.

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