New rescue policy stands

Published 9:27 pm Saturday, August 24, 2013

Volunteer squad still in danger after Friday meeting

The chief of the Nansemond-Suffolk Volunteer Rescue Squad says a Friday meeting produced no change in a decision that he and other volunteers say could force the squad out of existence.

“There was no change,” Jeff Brittingham said of his meeting with Suffolk Fire and Rescue Chief Cedric Scott. “I was hopeful and encouraged he wanted to sit down, but his position stands as it did.”

Scott informed the volunteers earlier this month that effective Sept. 1, the city will staff its Medic 1 around the clock and make it the first response to all medical emergencies in the area.

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Currently, the volunteers man their ambulance on nights, weekends and holidays and respond first to calls in the downtown area. The proposed change would mean they’d only respond when the city’s ambulances were on other calls, likely giving them fewer than 100 calls a year.

Brittingham says the squad would have fewer people willing to volunteer if it had fewer calls to send them on.

“Given the choice of going somewhere else and helping people or sitting in the station, they’re going to go elsewhere,” he said.

Scott said this week he made the choice because of concerns about response times. He believes the city’s medic unit can be fully staffed with no additional money required, simply by shuffling personnel around.

Brittingham says he was disappointed after his two-hour meeting with the chief.

“What you have is a whole lot of people with big hearts that just want to help their community,” he said. “I think this decision will be regretted in the future, but at this point their mind is made up.”

Members of the squad went to Wednesday’s City Council meeting to voice their displeasure, and seven of them spoke during the meeting. City Councilmen Roger Fawcett and Mike Duman made comments in support of the volunteers, but other council members said it is not the council’s place to get involved in the daily operation of the city.

City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn recommended council honor Scott’s decision.

Brittingham hopes a community outcry will encourage the city to reconsider.

“I think the citizens still support us,” Brittingham said. “I hope with community support, the decision is looked at again.”