BEACON FALLS — Beacon Hose Company No. 1 is now offering an incentive for emergency medical services volunteers who respond to calls.
Beacon Hose started an incentive-stipend program in March wherein emergency medical technicians receive $20 for each call they responded to, and emergency medical responders receive $10 for each call, Beacon Hose spokesman Jeremy Rodorigo said.
Rodorigo, who served as the EMS director until earlier this year, said this program came about because the number of volunteers and the amount of time volunteers can donate were declining.
“What has happened over years, across the country, is that the time people have to volunteer has gotten smaller, and the requirements to be an EMT have gotten much greater,” Rodorigo said. “This storm has been brewing for some time.”
The way the program works is volunteers receive money for calls they respond to, but not for meetings or training. However, it gives them incentive to go to the trainings and meetings so they will be able to continue to respond to the calls, Rodorigo said.
Beacon Hose Company No. 1 Chief Jim Trzaski said the program has been successful so far. If the ambulance company can not get a crew together within a reasonable amount of time of a call, it has to pass the call on to another company, he said.
“Within past four months we have not passed any calls,” Trzaski said.
In addition to the volunteers, Beacon Hose has two full-time ambulance employees who are at the firehouse Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Trzaski pointed out the employees work for Beacon Hose and are not paid by the town.
The salary for the ambulance employees, as well as the incentive money for the volunteers, is paid through funds Beacon Hose collects from insurance reimbursements, Rodorigo explained.
“What we did was, we looked at finances and looked at the way we are reimbursed for calls,” Rodorigo said. “We bill [a patient’s] insurance company and are reimbursed. Those funds go to Beacon Hose. We were able to pay two full-time employees and have enough to pay for calls for volunteers.”
Rodorigo said the entire program is funded by ambulance billing revenue and none of it comes from taxpayers.
Rodorigo said he was worried about what the next step would have been if the program had not worked.
“I honestly didn’t know if it would work the way I wanted it to work. I thought if this doesn’t work I don’t know what the next plan is going to be other than hire more people at a greater cost,” Rodorigo said.
Rodorigo said having an incentive program is not uncommon, pointing to Seymour, Oxford and Prospect as examples of towns that already have similar programs in place.
Prospect began its reimbursement program at the beginning of the 2013-14 fiscal year. It is different than Beacon Hose’s program in that it is taxpayer funded and it is firefighters receiving the reimbursement.
Prospect Fire Marshal Keith Griffin said the program is working well and the department has seen a roughly 10-percent increase in response to calls.
Griffin said the department spent approximately $7,000 in the first half of the fiscal year and is expected to spend the same amount during the second half of the year.
“So far we’re having no problem and it has increased our response,” Griffin said.
Rodorigo said when he began serving with the fire department 25 years ago he would not have thought that offering incentives would have been the way of the future.
“The EMS and volunteer fire department has changed so much over the past decades. This is just one of those changes. It’s the way of the world. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just different,” Rodorigo said.