Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Calls rising for MAT-SU ambulance personnel

Mat-Su | Patty Sullivan | Tuesday, May 16, 2006

PALMER—Ambulances across the Matanuska-Susitna Borough responded to 5,261 calls for help and transported 3,967 patients last fiscal year. This year the emergencies are expected to rise four percent to include 5,510 calls. The MAT-SU Borough is paying tribute to ambulance personnel during national Emergency Medical Services week, May 14-20. Mayor Tim Anderson is issuing a proclamation honoring the responders tonight. Assemblywoman Mary Kvalheim and her family have relied on responders. "Anyone who's had an emergency definitely knows the value of the teams of emergency responders formed by our neighbors and friends. They're such great people," Kwalheim said. "They've picked up me, my son, my husband, my grandson in separate accidents. Where would we be without them?" When ambulance paramedic Ginny Gee testified before the Assembly recently, she described herself as a "medical professional" a noticeable contrast to the term "volunteer." It takes more than 1,000 hours of training to reach the qualifications of a paramedic. Emergency responders are sometimes called volunteers because they work other jobs and get paid for medical response only when their beeper goes off, calling them to an emergency. The MAT-SU Borough has 200 dedicated responders for ambulance calls. Most of the responders are paid only when training, on a call, or on scheduled standby. The responders include Emergency Trauma Technicians, Emergency Medical Technicians, and paramedics. Not all of the seven ambulance service districts in the Borough can afford to pay for standbys, so they rely on responders listening to their pagers 24 hours a day and leaving their families or jobs to take care of their communities. They do so willingly, time after time, placing their lives on the line to assist others. Consider the MAT-SU's dedicated responders in Trapper Creek and Talkeetna. When their pagers sound, they may be in for a run that takes them about 70 miles north on the Parks Highway for an eight-hour call. Should that call come late at night, they will be awake all night yet still must appear at 8 am at their regular jobs. The same is true for Sutton, Victory Bible Camp, and Lake Louise responders who run far up the Glenn Highway. "Not nearly enough praise goes to the family members of the responders," said Deputy Director Clint Vardeman of the MAT-SU Emergency Services Department. "Countless family dinners, special occasions, birthdays, sports events and just "down time" are interrupted because of the dedication of our responders and their supportive and patient families. "The MAT-SU has 20 ambulances. There are seven ambulance service areas. Ambulance stations include: Central (District 1); Big Lake and Meadow Lakes (District 2); Talkeetna/Trapper Creek/Sunshine District 4; Houston and Willow (District 5); Palmer and Butte are each a service area; Sutton and the Victory Bible Camp are a service area; and at Lake Louise a Suburban has a first-responder team but does not transfer patients. Here's a rough breakdown of the response and transport percentages for last fiscal year:

  • Central, 54.5 percent responses, 56.2 percent transports
  • District 2, 12.3 percent responses, 11.5 percent transports
  • Palmer, 18.5 percent responses, 19.1 percent transports
  • District 4, 4.5 percent responses, 4.0 percent transports
  • District 5, 3.9 percent responses, 3.1 percent responses
  • Butte, 4.0 percent responses, 4.0 percent transports
  • Sutton area, 2.0 percent responses, 1.9 percent transports

On May 18, from 8-10 pm, all Borough responders can go bowling for free at the North Bowl on the Palmer-Wasilla Highway. Central Ambulance and the Department of Emergency Services are splitting the cost. For more information contact Clint Vardeman at 373-8804.