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Stony Creek adds paid paramedics

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Assistant Chiefs Jeff Levy and Brandon Holloman, left, and new part-time paid paramedics Jason Smith and Todd Rogers check equipment at Stony Creek Volunteer Rescue Squad.

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Sunday, January 21, 2018

A once familiar name in local volunteer rescues is returning to paid service.

The Stony Creek Volunteer Rescue Squad staffed a part-time paid crew for the first time in 11 years on Jan. 8. Their shift began at 9 a.m., and they received their first call eight minutes later.

The department's successful return to paramedic level service was lengthy and involved collaboration between local, state and federal agencies, said Jeff Levy, Stony Creek's assistant chief in charge of training.

With its district annexed by Nash County EMS, a lot of people assumed Stony Creek had been closed or it went out of business in 2006, Levy said.

“Stony Creek never went away,” Levy said. “The paid staff members of Stony Creek went to work with other agencies.”

Stony Creek continued to provide rescue and dive team services to the community and provided back-up EMS service. But for the past 11 years, Stony Creek relied exclusively on its volunteer membership to answer calls.

“We continue to respond to a variety of calls including children locked in vehicles, automobile accidents with people trapped inside, vehicle and body recoveries requiring a dive team, EMS calls and special standby events,” Levy said. “Our volunteer membership has been the blood of the department since its beginning in 1956.”

Since it's difficult for volunteers to maintain the level of training required for paramedic service, Stony Creek slipped down to advanced EMT level care, which was still above most county departments that operate at the basic EMT level.

But Stony Creek — like many other departments locally, across the state and nationwide — has been impacted by a dwindling volunteer base.

“The shrinking presence of volunteerism affects fire, EMS and rescue squads in communities everywhere,” Levy said. “Many fire and EMS professionals work two and three jobs just to make ends meet. This leaves little time for their families and for volunteer work. The decision to work an extra shift in a volunteer capacity or one that will bring home a check and keep the lights on and food on the table is now an easy choice to make.”

Stony Creek's back-up ambulance call volume increased year after year. Last year, it had almost 1,100 calls for an ambulance. But many of those calls went unanswered by Stony Creek as volunteers weren't available and outside area ambulances had to be called.

Stony Creek decided to take steps to move back to paramedic level service in 2016.

“All in all, we spent over a year writing an education plan, new operating guidelines, policies and procedures, filling out applications for new licenses and meeting with individuals from Nash County EMS all the way to the Drug Enforcement Agency,” Levy said. “We looked at how several other paramedic squads operated and tried to incorporate some of their best practices into building our program.”

In September 2017, after local approval, the state inspected Stony Creek ambulances and gave the thumbs up for the department to operate as a paramedic level squad once again.

“This was a huge accomplishment that could not have been successful without lots of hard work, dedication and support from within the department, the community and the Nash County EMS system,” Levy said.

Paramedic level care is the highest level of prehospital care recognized in North Carolina.

In addition to the skills that an Advanced EMT can provide, paramedics can administer even more medications, monitor a patient’s heart, perform and interpret 12-lead EKGs, place surgical airways, provide external pacing of the heart when it is not beating adequately, insert IO lines for administering intravenous fluids and medications when a vein is not accessible and decompress a chest when a collapsed lung is creating a threat to life

“Stony Creek continues to rely heavily on our small but committed volunteer membership to answer the call, day or night,” Levy said. “We are proud of our elevation of care to the paramedic level and the addition of our paid staff to help supplement the full-time work done by Nash County EMS. With the addition of an EMS crew from our department, we hope to decrease response time and increase access to quality prehospital care.”

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