Lambsburg Rescue still in limbo

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — While a Lambsburg resident objected strongly to the halt on dispatching his community's volunteer rescue squad, the Carroll supervisors at their Feb. 9 meeting stood by the administrative decision to put a stop to the agency's emergency medical response.

The action followed an alleged breach of protocol in December 2008, when Lambsburg Rescue Squad members did not provide necessary advanced life support on a call involving a heart attack.

The decision to no longer dispatch Lambsburg through E-911 was based on information provided to the county by Carroll's operational medical director.

Guy Clark took issue with the action during citizens' time at the regular February Carroll County Board of Supervisors meeting.

A breach of protocol could be serious or not serious, he said. New to the area, Clark started asking around about the situation and he's heard how unhappy Lambsburg residents are about this.

"I think you guys have made an egregious mistake," he said. "You have an awful lot of people in Lambsburg who are very upset with this — we think we are being railroaded."

Lambsburg's squad is doing as good a job as any other rescue squad in the county, he said.

The operational medical director for Carroll rescue squads, Jason Edsall, spoke about making improvements over the next five years to the county's volunteer squads as a whole at the supervisors' Jan. 12 meeting, Clark recalled. To Clark, that means the other rescue squads in the county aren't up to speed either.

People on Lambsburg's rescue squads have told Clark that there was no breach of protocol, that this situation is a set-up, the citizen said. Lambsburg operates under the state's charter, and Carroll is trying to force them to change their charter to be under the county's control.

Cana Rescue Squad is now covering medical calls in Lambsburg, but Cana has to respond from farther away, he said.

Community members like the fact that their rescue squad is right there, ready to take patients to the hospital or doctor's office, Clark said. And they don't charge for the service.

"This is not something to mess with, folks," he said. "We are not happy in Lambsburg, and I've heard several people mention that if something doesn't change along these lines, we may consider a suit against the county..."

A common attitude in Lambsburg is that citizens there are routinely neglected by the local government.

"I don't mind being neglected by government — tell you the truth, sometimes that's a plus for me," Clark said. "But I do not like having government step in our way when we're doing something for ourselves."

Don't hinder the community, he concluded.

But the supervisor themselves, by motion at the same meeting, stood by the decision on Lambsburg Rescue Squad.

On a motion by Supervisor Wes Hurst, the supervisors unanimously upheld County Administrator Gary Larrowe's action halting Lambsburg rescue from responding to medical calls in December and the county's emergency service board action in support of that decision in January.

County officials have reasons for their actions, said Supervisor Manus McMillian, who's also on the county's emergency services board.

"We have an [operational medical director] and that's his position..." the Fancy Gap supervisor said. "If we did not trust his opinion, then he should not have been in that position to start with."

When the operational medical director makes a recommendation, the officials need to seriously consider it, McMillian added.

There is more at stake when dealing with peoples' health concerns than with "egos" involved, he said. Carroll officials have to have the citizens' health as their utmost concern.

Supervisor Andy Jackson, also on the emergency services board, said this matter was clearly explained at the ESB meeting — including what happened to spark the concern about Lambsburg and what should have been done, but was not, on the rescue call in question.

It just so happened that the heart patient taken to Northern Surry Hospital in Mount Airy, N.C., was seen by none other than Edsall, Jackson said.

Carroll has a responsibility to give the best care possible and Jackson is in 100 percent agreement with the county's actions, he said. "I just thank the good Lord we didn't lose a life that night."

McMillian said that Lambsburg Rescue Squad members were asked to come to the emergency services board meeting when the issue was to be discussed. No one showed up.

After the meeting, Emergency Services Coordinator Joe Roma said there is no timetable to return Lambsburg to service. It is still pending review by the state.

County officials believe that Lambsburg Rescue Squad had plenty of opportunity to seek advanced life support assistance from one of many other agencies, including Cana, Pipers Gap, Carroll EMS or even Surry County.

"We have the training around the county where we can provide it," he said. "It's not like it's not there — if you call, we can get someone to help."

Another issue that has come out is that Lambsburg has been operating for about a year without an operational medical director of its own, Roma said.

"You can't operate without an OMD," said the emergency services coordinator.