With Rescue vote, our elected officers have failed us

BRATTLEBORO — The town has a duty under our charter to “establish and maintain a rescue service, including quarters, vehicles, and equipment, and to provide for an ambulance service and the appointed emergency medical technicians.” The town's precipitous decision to throw Rescue under the bus does not serve “the common good of all its citizens,” and disrespects “the will of the people.”

The town refused to communicate with Rescue, our award-winning, nonprofit EMS provider for over half a century, after the Feb. 9 meeting, and refused to negotiate with Rescue after receiving the “incendiary letter” of March 25.

This is a manufactured crisis, created by our new town manager, forcing the town to scramble to contract with a for-profit corporation, Golden Cross Ambulance, Inc., to take Rescue's place during a “one-year transition period.”

Golden Cross, unlike Rescue, does not have a paramedic-critical care endorsement in Vermont. Rescue is an integral part of the fabric of our community, and its members provide much more than EMS to the town.

It makes more sense to renew the three-year contract with Rescue while the town embarks on a feasibility study and then presents a detailed plan for vehicles, equipment, personnel, and training to the voters for approval by Australian ballot. This would permit a seamless transition to the fire department as our EMS provider if the voters approve.

Will you feel safe after July 1 having two used Golden Cross ambulances and one paramedic to serve the entire town, instead of a fleet of critical care paramedic Rescue ambulances?

This is not a choice between using Uber or Lyft for your ride to the hospital - lives are at stake. What will happen if the Golden Cross ambulances are responding to a motor vehicle accident with multiple life-threatening injuries and there is a 911 call for a sudden cardiac arrest? Will there be a half-hour delay before an ambulance from Keene or Greenfield arrives on scene? Will Rescue make a commitment to be the primary backup to Golden Cross during the transition period, or has Brattleboro burned that bridge?

I have a sense of foreboding that our elected officers have chosen to gamble with people's lives. Only about 10 percent of patients survive a sudden cardiac arrest, even with bystander CPR, a prompt EMS response, and the use of a defibrillator.

After three or four minutes, brain cells start to die from hypoxia - a lack of oxygen to the brain. Brain damage, once it occurs, is irreversible. Minutes matter. Having to wait for a mutual aid ambulance to arrive from a neighboring town might mean death, where there could have been a second chance at life.

I know. I suffered a sudden cardiac arrest three years ago. A skilled, experienced, paramedic from Rescue brought me back to life after almost 10 minutes of death.

After an advanced life support transport to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, an airlift to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, and an admission to the ICU, I survived. I owe my life to Rescue, as do others.

Our elected officers have failed us. The town ought to repair its relationship with Rescue and renew its contract before it is too late.

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