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OnCall: Vermont lunches campaign to recruit more emergency services volunteers

BRATTLEBORO—Amid the national advertisements, Vermonters watching their favorite television shows on the entertainment-streaming website Hulu this week saw an ad with a local flavor: EMTs in Vermont.

The OnCall for Vermont initiative is an effort by the Vermont Department of Health to recruit more volunteers to the state’s ranks of emergency services.

The department noted that a 2014 survey of emergency medical services (EMS) heads of service showed that about 86 percent of Vermont EMS agencies use volunteers but two-thirds of all such agencies in the state felt that they were understaffed.

According to the health department, most of the state’s 3,000 EMS providers are volunteers.

The state also hopes to recruit volunteers to their local Medical Reserves Corps (MRC). These units are comprised of local volunteers who respond to public health crises or disasters in their communities. The MRC accepts people regardless of medical training.

As part of the initiative, the department created a website, oncallforvt.org, intended to act as “the hub for health-focused volunteering, training and response in Vermont.”

“This new portal brings together the Vermont Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) and the Vermont Office of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and Injury Prevention in order to provide Vermonters with a simple and easy path to becoming a health volunteer,” states the department on the new website.

“The rural nature of our state and the relatively small size of most Vermont communities makes it one of the toughest places in the nation to offer fast, reliable, and high-level EMS services,” said Health Commissioner Harry Chen, M.D., who worked as an emergency room physician for more than 20 years in Rutland. “EMS is a key component of our public health efforts, and everyone associated with emergency medicine respects and appreciates the work they do.”

For additional information on volunteering for emergency services in Vermont, call your local EMS organization.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #306 (Wednesday, May 20, 2015). This story appeared on page A3.

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