The Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department has provided free emergency medical transport services to the residents of Mint Hill for more than 30 years, but that will no longer be the case come Sept. 1.
“We have enjoyed our free service method, but with the call load we can” no longer provide free transports, Roger Martin, a board member for the Mint Hill VFD, said.
An increase in assisted living facilities, older residents and population growth has resulted in Mint Hill EMS receiving more calls every year, department officials said, with 2,500 calls for service in 2012. In 1975, when the department first starting providing transport services, it received about 15 calls per month. The increase in calls is forcing the department to hire additional personnel, though funding isn’t currently available to do so. The town and the department are teaming up to hire new employees by amending the current contract and allowing the town to lend money to the Mint Hill VFD.
“I know (Mint Hill VFD has) worked on this for a long time,” Commissioner Lloyd Austin said during the Aug. 15 meeting, “… and I know it’s a hard decision, but I realize the need for it.”
The town will pay the initial costs of the new hires, but will be reimbursed by the Mint Hill VFD once they have begun collecting fees for transport services to and from area hospitals, according to town manager Brian Welch.
Fees will be in line with Charlotte EMS services, which are based on the distance to and from the hospital.
“We expect our call load to increase substantially each year,” Martin said. “… We have determined at this point that we have enough equipment, but we need more manpower.”
The department currently has seven full-time employees per shift, not including the help of some volunteers. That’s not enough people to ensure firefighters can respond to EMS calls and still have enough staff to respond to an emergency if one were to occur.
The department hopes to hire six new firefighters, two per shift, in the first year to ensure 24-hour coverage. More hires may occur in the future depending on how the call load increases.
“This will allow the full staff of fire and EMS members to answer both fire and medical first responder calls, but will not be a part of the transports unless needed for high priority calls,” a release from the department stated.
Mint Hill VFD also could have cancelled transport services, bringing in Mecklenburg Medic to handle all transport calls.
“The other option for the transport of the local citizens is to provide only first responder service, allowing the county service, Medic, to provide the transport to hospitals,” the release continued. Department leaders felt it best to do what was needed to continue providing transport services through the Mint Hill VFD for residents.
For more information about the changes, call the Mint Hill VFD at 704-545-4866