FAIR HAVEN — After a month’s hiatus due to understaffing and lack of a field supervisor, the Fair Haven Rescue Squad is back up and running with a new supervisor and several new staff members.
“We have coverage from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.,” said Lynn LaRock, member of the board of directors of the rescue squad, on Thursday. “We’re trying to rebuild.”
LaRock said the board went through the state labor office, put ads in local publications, and contacted Castleton University and the Community College of Vermont to attract new staff.
It was an ad in the Lakes Region Free Press that attracted Orwell resident Liz Orr, formerly of the Middlebury Regional EMS, to the position of field supervisor. She replaces Tyler Hock, who gave his notice a month in advance, LaRock said.
The squad spent the month of July recruiting, welcoming back some old members and getting their new crew up to snuff. By Aug. 1, the squad was up and running again, LaRock said.
“We have new, trained young people that have shown up that come from all different places, who have been trained by multiple people,” LaRock said. “They really want to see us succeed.”
Efforts were made to contact Orr and Hock, but neither could be reached for comment.
Hock, who now works at Rutland Regional Medical Center and Regional Ambulance service, was followed by several Fair Haven Rescue Squad members when he left, but LaRock said some came back to continue their service there.
And LaRock said they’re still hiring, mostly for night shifts.
In a letter Town Manager Joe Gunter said was submitted to the Fair Haven Select Board dated July 5 and signed by Willem Leenman, director of the board of the Fair Haven Rescue Squad (FHRS), Leenman said the squad was ceasing all operations for the next couple of weeks because of personnel issues.
“We regret to inform you this service has temporarily come to a halt,” Leenman wrote. “As of this writing, our July roster does not have a single day covered. We have experienced some serious personnel morale issues resulting in massive resignations.”
Since the FHRS stopped operating, Regional Ambulance Service and Middlebury Regional EMS, along with emergency services from Benson, Hubbardton, Poultney and West Haven in Vermont, as well as Hampton and Skenesborough in New York, are among the departments that have assisted Fair Haven.
“We have two crews for the towns we cover,” said Teena Betourney, executive director for Middlebury Regional EMS, which answers 3,000 annual calls in the towns of Middlebury, East Middlebury, Salisbury, Weybridge, Cornwall, Shoreham, Bridport, Whiting, New Haven and Orwell.
While they don’t experience a shortage of materials, Betourney said the turnover with rescue squads is usually extremely quick — within a few years. She said it’s common for EMTs to move on and study for a higher certification, go for their nursing degree or take higher-paying positions.
And with 11 full-time staff members, 23 per diem staff, 17 volunteers and 42 volunteer students from Middlebury College, Betourney said they’re still always looking for people from all levels of emergency service.
Rescue services already grapple with low pay, low reimbursement and high turnover, Betourney said, and grant opportunities for equipment and upgrades are few and far between.
Jim Finger, chief executive administrator for Rutland Regional Ambulance Service, said right now all rescue squads are consistently supplying mutual aid to one another, given the limited manpower they all have.
“There’s a staffing shortage nationwide,” Finger said. “Everybody is stretched thin. You can never gauge what call volume is going to be at any time.”
Currently, Finger said, Regional Ambulance has 60 paid personnel, four to five ambulances staffed every day and three all night long.
And right now, LaRock said, Fair Haven’s two active ambulances and new crew is in working order and able to cover their shifts again.