EMS Society gives to community groups
The Sundre and District Emergency Medical Services Society has ended a long history of caring for the needs of area residents. Society officials distributed the society’s remaining funds to community groups during a ceremony at the Sundre Community Centre last week.
The society was started in February of 1982, by volunteers including Howard Smith, John Rose, Georgina Hilts, Dot Johnston, Vi Ellithorpe , Bill Scott, Dwayne Grace, Harvey Doering, George Pusey, Myron Thompson, Neil Vanderzwan, Neil Dibble and many others.
These caring individuals saw the need for the immediate care and response for the injured and sick, which wasn’t adequately being handled by far-removed services from Calgary or Red Deer.
The early volunteers canvassed local businesses and walked in the Sundre Rodeo Parade, carrying pails and requesting donations.
The first ambulance was a station wagon, with a trained EMT (Wolfe Kemna) on board, and driven by volunteers. John Rose was an early driver who soon trained to be an EMT, and his wife Annette drove as a volunteer also.
Strong community support, a dedicated volunteer base, and a caring interaction with hospital staff were the foundations of a successful ambulance service that grew from humble beginnings.
Volunteer board members from Sundre, and the communities of James River, Bearberry, McDougal Flats, Harmattan, Bergen, Eagle Valley, Wesward Ho, and more recently Water Valley, were instrumental in providing direction and overseeing spending and resource allocation.
This group includes those mentioned previously, as well as long-serving members Nels Eskesen, Chris Grimstead, Elaine Hanna and many others.
Dr. Jim Thompson was the medical director for many years, and was instrumental in working with the province to establish certification standards in testing and record keeping, in order to create a more consistent level of care throughout the province.
Pat Campkin and Bonnie Jones were also key in creating a synergy between the hospital and the EMS.
The EMTs had their own challenges to face. Money was always tight, hours were very long, and in a small community, the patient you were caring for was usually someone you knew.
Stress like that often shortened careers, but the Sundre EMS was fortunate to have many dedicated caregivers through the decades.
The service evolved continually, moving from one bay in the fire hall to its own building near the hospital in 1991, and eventually back to the larger, expanded fire hall in 2005, which included more space for training, a regular kitchen and dedicated sleeping quarters.
Sundre EMS also became a two-car service. It was a luxury for a small community to be able to send one car on medical transfer calls while keeping one car available for emergency calls.
In 2005, Sundre EMS faced economic pressures caused in part by upgrading to an Advanced Life Support (ALS) service from a Basic Life Support (BLS) service.
Alberta Health Services was also pushing Sundre EMS to merge with Mountain View Regional Emergency Medical Services.
The decision was made to sell the assets of Sundre EMS to MVREMS, with the stipulation that Sundre and area residents would still keep the same level of service they had been receiving. The Sundre EMS board held onto the money from the sale of those assets until now, in part waiting to see if we would need to get back into the ambulance game for the needs of our citizens.
We have recently decided to disburse all remaining funds and collapse our society status.
The current board members feel that the Sundre EMS was built by the community, with the primary objective being the health care of the community. With this in mind, we are making the following donations:
• A $55,000 scholarship fund for students from Sundre and surrounding communities who pursue a post-secondary education in the fields of medical research and development or health care.
• $30,000 to the Sundre Palliative Care Association to assist them in the excellent care they provide under difficult circumstances.
• $30,000 to the Sundre Hospital Auxiliary, which provides many necessities to the Sundre Hospital and Care Centre, spending the dollars where they are most needed.
• $5,000 to the Sundre Search and Rescue, who are called out by the RCMP to provide immediate, organized and trained assistance when minutes count the most.
• $10,000 to the Sundre Aquatic Society, which provides a facility that encourages active living in young and old citizens alike.
• Finally, $5,000 each to the eight communities that sent members to sit on the Sundre EMS administration board, in recognition of the support and donations of the citizens of those communities through the decades. Again, the nine communities are Sundre, James River, Bearberry, Harmattan, Eagle Valley, Westward Ho, Water Valley and Bergen.
We would like to commend each and every individual, service group and organization that has helped by donating money or time to the Sundre EMS over the years.
To the families of the selfless volunteers who contributed so much, we also commend you.
To the hundreds of EMTs, paramedics, managers, secretaries, dispatchers, nurses and doctors who helped us care for the thousands of patients, we are forever grateful.
Kudos and so long from the current board members: Sundre-Paul Webb (chairman); James River-Elaine Hanna (treasurer); Westward Ho-Nita Bartholow (secretary); Bearberry/McDougal Flats-Helen Jackson; Harmattan-Sandra Smith; Eagle Valley-Jack Johnson; Water Valley-Peter Van Hal; Bergen-Mike Koot.