Blue Ridge (VA) EMS Region Requests Grant Funding to Replace Equipment

Local EMS agencies requested nearly $500,000 in state grant money that could help update decades-old equipment and vehicles used during emergency calls.

The requests were submitted last week by seven agencies in the Blue Ridge EMS Council region, the nonprofit that standardizes emergency medical services in Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford and Campbell counties and Lynchburg.

If approved, money from the state’s Rescue Squad Assistance Fund would partially reimburse agencies for the projects outlined in their applications. The total cost of this year’s requests comes in at a little more than $780,000, more than half of which would be covered by state money if every project was approved.

This year’s requests would help pay for mechanical stretchers and chairs to lift patients, defibrillators, ambulances and computer software, among other items.

While the list seems basic — some of the items would replace equipment that’s been in service for decades and no longer is supported by warranties or software — purchasing and maintaining up-to-date equipment comes with a big price tag.

For example, five agencies requested partial funding for 10 Zoll X Series defibrillators, which were appraised at more than $30,000 each. If an agency wants mounts for four of those monitors, add another $1,676 to the total cost.

For small EMS agencies, the grant money can help significantly offset the cost of purchasing and maintaining life-saving equipment. This especially is true for volunteer-based agencies that rely on donations, fundraising and whatever help they can get from their local governments.

But, the road to approval is long.

Each of the BREMS agencies’ requests were reviewed by the council’s Board of Directors last week and then ranked according to priority and degree of need. Those results were sent to the Virginia Office of EMS on Oct. 23, Purvis said, but only as a reference for the Financial Assistance Review Committee that reviews the requests.

From there, the requests are sent with FARC recommendations to the Commissioner of Health, Davis said. Agencies with approved requests are notified Jan. 1.

But bigger requests, such as the half the cost of a new ambulance, can take even longer, said Amherst County Department of Public Safety Director Gary Roakes.

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