County offers aid to rescue company

Shenandoah County could help a volunteer fire and rescue department continue to provide emergency medical services to the New Market area.

The Department of Fire and Rescue recently extended an offer to New Market Fire and Rescue to bring the volunteer agency under the county’s EMS license. Operations Chief Tim Williams said Tuesday the department made the offer to the volunteer organization that, if approved, would allow New Market Fire and Rescue to continue to use certain vehicles and equipment to provide emergency medical services.

“What we have offered to do is not uncommon,” Williams said.

The volunteer organization remains at risk of losing its state-issued license to provide emergency medical services after repeatedly failing to pass inspections and to report response data. County leaders learned last week that state officials likely would not renew the volunteer organization’s EMS license. Representatives of the volunteer organization refuted claims made last week by state officials that it had not complied with the licensure requirements.

Board of Supervisors Chairman David Ferguson has scheduled a special meeting for Aug. 25 to discuss the situation with New Market Fire and Rescue and its ability to provide emergency medical services.

Michael Berg, manager for regulation and compliance with the Office of Emergency Medical Services under the Virginia Department of Health, said Monday that as of last Wednesday, the volunteer organization had submitted the necessary data and thus complied with that requirement. However, Dr. Nazir Adam, operational medical director for the county, has indicated that he likely would not renew the license anyway because the county’s paid fire and rescue workers handle the bulk of the calls for that station given the low number of volunteers.

In response to concerns raised by the volunteer representatives that they were unaware of the status of the license, Berg said the Office of Emergency Medical Services has been in constant contact with New Marker Fire and Rescue and has provided information about the license to the department’s chief, Robbie Smith, and its EMS captain, Stephanie Seekford. This communication became most prevalent during the agency’s latest inspection, Berg said.

State officials reviewed the data submitted by the volunteer organization and found the agency in compliance, Berg said. Specifically, the correction order that was set to expire this past Friday but extended until Sept. 11, was complied with the day after the meeting. County Administrator Mary Beth Price has been provided that information, he added. Seekford said Tuesday that an issue with reporting software prevented the data from reaching the state officials.

Berg explained that New Market Fire and Rescue cannot operate without a medical director and he can choose to no longer serve the volunteer organization in that capacity. If that occurred, New Market Fire and Rescue would need to find another medical director, Berg said.

The county department already has a license that covers some vehicles such as fire trucks that carry EMS-related equipment and personnel at volunteer fire departments in Edinburg, Strasburg, Toms Brook and Woodstock, Williams explained.

Units are licensed because they have a certain amount of EMS equipment on board that meets the standards of the Office of Emergency Medical Services. New Market Fire and Rescue doesn’t carry EMS equipment on its fire-suppression vehicles because it operates ambulances. The county license would only need to cover New Market’s ambulances, Williams said.

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