The University of Maine Volunteer Ambulance Corps are back up and running following a complete halt of operations due to scheduling conflicts among the staff. UVAC members remained idle throughout the month of February and into early March before scheduling conflicts were resolved and regular services resumed.
“It was a matter of no one being available to take the shifts for a while,” said Dr. Mark Jackson, director of the UVAC program. “We had EMTs doing double duty as drivers as well as assistants.”
UVAC typically runs with a three-person crew that includes a certified emergency medical technician, an assistant and the driver of the ambulance. During staff shortages, EMTs and other volunteers’ time and resources are tapped by 12-hour shifts in a 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week operation.
“The students who volunteer here are generally active, busy people,” Jackson said. “Some are even in work study programs in addition to volunteering at UVAC.”
During the shutdown, adjunct staff member Dennis Russell was hired to assist in the organization and recruitment efforts needed to secure volunteers for the program. Jackson and Russell agreed that recruitment of new volunteers is the best way to ensure an active role for UVAC in the future. Eighteen EMTs, six assistants and four drivers are currently on the roster of members at UVAC. Applications are also being processed for 16 potential members of the crew.
“Everyone here is a student first,” Russell said. “All of our members are encouraged to put their academics first and take the time they need for school.”
Residents needing emergency transportation are charged a significantly lower rate than commercial ambulance services – about a quarter less – Jackson said. Thus far, UVAC has made 85 transports this year, 31 involving trauma and 15 alcohol related.
“This service is very important not only to the community, but to our members as well, because there’s nothing better than volunteering for your community,” Jackson said. “Every year we’re advancing and solidifying our program.”
With recruitment efforts already underway for events such as Maine Day and new student orientations, Jackson and Russell are confident UVAC will remain in successful operation.
“We’re growing in positive directions now,” Russell said. “Things are going well and our members take great pride in the work they do. I don’t think we’ll have any more problems.”