Agency, county to team on EMS

New Market Fire and Rescue plans to work under Shenandoah County’s license to provide emergency medical services.

County Administrator Mary Beth Price advised Wednesday that the volunteer organization’s leadership decided earlier this week to relinquish its state-issued EMS license. The New Market volunteer group plans instead to work with the Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue Department under its license so that responders and equipment associated with the volunteer department can continue to provide emergency medical services in and around the town, Price said.

As such, Board of Supervisors Chairman David Ferguson has canceled the special meeting he had scheduled for Tuesday for the purpose of discussing the situation with the volunteer department. Ferguson called the volunteer agency’s decision to work with the county department to come under its license the logical solution to the problem. This option allows the group’s emergency medical technicians to continue to serve the community, Ferguson said.

John Blosser, president of the New Market Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department Board of Directors and vice mayor on the town council, sent a letter to county supervisors, and Price announced the agency’s plan to relinquish its state-issued EMS license.

“I think it’s very nice of them (to make the offer),” Blosser said Wednesday.

The announcement comes after the volunteer department’s board of directors held a special meeting on Sunday to discuss compliance issues related to the license, according to information from Price.

The volunteer organization faced losing its EMS license last week and, at the request of the Board of Supervisors, state officials agreed to extend the deadline for 30 days to give the county time to meet with the volunteers and discuss potential solutions. However, Dr. Nazir Adam, operational medical director in charge of New Market Fire and Rescue’s EMS license, indicated to the board that he likely wouldn’t renew the license even if the agency came into compliance given that paid staff members still respond to the bulk of the emergency medical services calls.

Representatives of the New Market department, the county agency and the state Office of Emergency Medical Services recently began preliminary discussions to start the process of bringing the volunteer group’s EMS resources under the county’s license.

In the Aug. 17 letter, Blosser states, “Although details of a partnership have yet to be agreed upon, representatives of New Market Fire and Rescue are initiating conversations with Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue Officials and expressing their desire for such an arrangement.”

“New Market Fire and Rescue is committed to resolving this matter as quickly as possible and looks forward to working cooperatively with Shenandoah County to provide the highest possible level of service to our citizens,” Blosser states in the letter.

The county began stationing paid responders in New Market in 2008. The county now has 14 responders assigned to the station to provide a four-person crew 24 hours per day, seven days a week.

Paid staff responded to nearly all of the station’s emergency medical services calls in 2014 and continue to do so this year, though Capt. Stephanie Seekford, in charge of EMS, has said the data doesn’t paint an accurate picture of the volunteers’ efforts.

As for the health of the volunteer organization, Blosser said “we’re in good shape.”

“We just don’t have the EMTs at the present time and that’s what we need to get,” Blosser said.

The agency, like many others, loses volunteers to paying positions in fire and rescue services.

“I can understand a young person that wants to do it, making a career of it and getting paid for it,” Blosser added.

In response to several questions about the offer, Price said Wednesday that the arrangement could come at some cost to the county, though it’s too early to determine how much, if any, that might be. Parties are also still discussing whether or not the volunteer organization would maintain ownership of its equipment under the county’s license, Price said. The administration is handling the details of what likely would be a memorandum of understanding between the volunteers and the county. Once such a deal is drafted, Price said she anticipates the agreement would be presented to the Board of Supervisors for its approval.

However, the Office of Emergency Medical Service would still continue to monitor New Market Fire and Rescue to make sure the volunteer agency complies with the requirements of the EMS license. Likewise, the state agency would continue to hold inspections of the station.

The county department has had no problems with any of the other volunteer fire departments under its license, Price said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com