Ambulance service seeks new home

  • Paramedics with South County EMS check the equipment and drug inventory of one of their ambulances. Recorder file photo/Matt Burkhartt

  • Chief Zachary Smith, director of South County EMS, speaks during a presentation at Whately Town Offices on Wednesday.

For the Gazette
Tuesday, April 05, 2016

WHATELY — Heading into its third year of operation, South County Emergency Medical Service is eager to find a new home.

Chief Zachary Smith, the service’s director, said it needs more space and a better centralized site than the service’s three current locations offer. Smith delivered a presentation in the Whately Town Offices on Wednesday, March 30, and later said that the building has “floated to the top” of a list of places the service’s Board of Oversight has investigated over the past 2½ years.

“South Deerfield has been a great host,” he said at the new municipal offices in the former regional library building at 4 Sandy Lane. “The truth of the matter is we don’t fit and we need something else.”

At 7:27 p.m., a medical call came in and some of the medics in the room left to respond to a reported eye injury.

Smith said there is an ambulance stationed at the South Deerfield Fire District, the Sunderland Fire Department and the Whately Fire Department. His office is in Deerfield Town Hall. The idea is to consolidate these sites into one location.

But the idea of moving the service’s headquarters from Deerfield has upset some of the town’s residents.

Smith said there is a draft request for proposals that will be distributed to determine if there are any other sites that meet the ambulance service’s needs. He said he did not know when that request for proposals would be finalized.

During the presentation with paramedics and emergency medical technicians in the audience, Smith explained the service is a three-town partnership with a primary response area that spans 70 square miles and 10,305 residents. Mutual aid’s area is an additional 91 square miles and population of 28,000. The average response time is 7 minutes, 9 seconds. Smith said all the service’s employees are employees of Deerfield, which serves as the fiscal agent.

He said the South Deerfield, Sunderland and Whately locations respond to an average of 600, 250 and 150 calls every year, respectively.

According to Smith’s statistics, there were 802 calls made from January 2015 to December 2015. The South County service transported 593 people to a hospital, while the others refused transport or resolved the medical issue themselves.

“We can’t take you against your will. That’s kidnapping,” he said to laughter.

Smith said 65 percent of the service’s calls come between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. and 81 percent are between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.