By Lisa Loomis
For many decades The Valley's emergency medical response needs have been met by the all-volunteer Mad River Valley Ambulance Service (MRVAS). MRVAS provides vehicle extraction for rescue with local fire departments as well as backcountry, ropes and water rescue.
And that is still the case, though there are demographic as well as cultural changes that are making it challenging these days.
"We're always in need of more people, either for our medical teams or as drivers," said Sara Van Schaick, president of MRVAS.
"In particular, there's a need in the winter when we are busy with ski area calls, especially on Saturdays," she continued.
MRVAS has three ambulances and each one runs with a driver, a crew chief, an advanced EMT (emergency medical technician) and an attendant who can be either an EMR (emergency medical responder), an EMT or an advanced EMT.
"We have a schedule and our goal is to have a complete crew for each shift. Sometimes that happens and sometimes it doesn't. That being said, if we have a call at 9:30 a.m. on a Saturday, that crew could be gone for three hours or more, depending on where they had to transport the patient. On a recent Saturday, we had seven calls. We have a process in place for backup from Waterbury and we have Barre Town paramedics who come to administer pain relief and cardiac drugs," she explained.
Van Schaick said that in addition to the added calls during ski season, MRVAS is seeing an overall increase in the number of calls.
"It could be the changing, aging demographic of The Valley," she said, noting that while there are many employers who allow their employees to leave work to respond to ambulance calls, it is often challenging because some workers can't leave. She said similarly, family and child care constraints challenge other volunteers.
"But we're always looking for new blood," she said. MRVAS provides training for new volunteers as well as ongoing training and certifications for existing volunteers.
MRVAS has 63 members, some of whom are cross-trained. There are 12 advanced EMTs, 13 EMTs, 11 emergency medical responders, 16 drivers, 17 dispatchers and 11 rescue members.
In 2014, 20 percent of the calls were ski calls, 59 percent were medical, 13 percent were car accidents and 8 percent were miscellaneous, nonemergency or canceled calls.
For more information or to volunteer, visit mrvas.org.