FAIRFIELD BAY, Ark. – A recent idea floated by city officials in a small Arkansas resort town has some community members concerned.
The city of Fairfield Bay is looking at bringing in a fulltime paid paramedic service, a move that could threaten their volunteer EMS department that’s been operating for nearly 50 years.
Currently, when residents dial 9-1-1 for an emergency, they know that within minutes the bright lights and sirens of an EMS team will be there.
For residents of Fairfield Bay, that response time is around 5 minutes on average, and those helping callers back on their feet are familiar faces and neighbors.
“We might be out on the golf course and somebody needs us, you give us a call and we’re there,” volunteer Ross Freeman, who has been driving with Fairfield EMS for more than 6 years., said “You don’t find a much better group than EMS volunteers.”
He and many other volunteers have served the community for more than 47 years, but the team is now concerned that the city may be looking for help elsewhere. As Roger Brock with the EMS department explains, “the city is looking at bringing in fulltime service.”
“The City of Fairfield Bay is exploring our option of providing an ALS service to our residents and resort guests. We currently have a volunteer BLS service with a countywide ALS service as our backup,” Mayor Linda Duncan explained. “The City has experienced volunteer staffing shortages at times and feels we need to examine a paid ALS service vs. a volunteer service for our citizens and resort guests.”
The idea is still in its early stages but has led to some worry.
The differences between Advanced Life Support vs. the Basic Life Support current volunteers provide are certain qualifications, like inserting IVs and administering certain medications.
But Brock says the city already has an ALS service through Van Buren county-based paramedics, with a base stationed right outside the city gates.
“We can call the Advanced Life Support people as soon as we want to and there are calls where they’re already activated,” he said.
Freeman believes that for himself and the other volunteers, the compassion given from one neighbor helping another is something that can’t be bought with money.
“They come here [to Fairfield Bay] because of the ambulance service,” Brock said, “and because of the volunteerism we have in the city.”
“We’re not paid to do what we do,” Freeman added. “The joy in this is in helping other people.”
The proposal was going to be discussed in more detail during Monday’s City Council meeting, but Freeman says it’s has been tabled by the mayor for now so that she can speak with EMS volunteers in person at the end of the month.