NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON -- The Bennington Rescue Squad announced Tuesday that it is taking over as the fiscal agent of the Medical Reserve Corps of Southwestern Vermont and hoping to boost its dwindling ranks.
Replacing SVHC at reins
Bennington Rescue Executive Director William Hathaway announced the move, after Peter Lamb, administrative director of Support Services of Southwestern Vermont Health Care, announced in June that the parent company of the local hospital would no longer serve as the group's fiscal agent. Hathaway said SVHC's decision would have left the local Medical Reserve Corps unable to receive funding through grants, and could have led to it dissolving.
The Medical Reserve Corps is a national network of community-based units initiated and established by local organizations to meet the public health needs in local communities. The program is sponsored by the Office of the Surgeon General of the United States, according to Hathaway. The MRC consists of both medical and non-medical volunteers who contribute to local health initiatives. It also provides the necessary structure to identify, credential, train and activate medical and public health volunteers when needed.
Hathaway, a member of the local MRC's advisory council, said the council determined that Bennington Rescue could best manage the MRC. Bennington Rescue's Board of Directors agreed to serve as the fiscal agent, making the group eligible for continued grant funding.
"I feel that the MRC is too much an essential community resource and part of our community's emergency response system to allow it to fail," Hathaway said. "On more than one occasion, we have relied on the MRC to help us staff large community events such as flu and shingles clinics and pandemic drill exercises. They played a critical role during the H1N1 vaccination deployment into Bennington County schools in 2009. During this H1N1 mobilization, there were 2,971 doses of H1N1 vaccine administered to school age children and the MRC was on the forefront assisting the Vermont Department of Health."
Lissa Stark, chairwoman of the MRC Advisory Council, said the transition will be completed once a complete inventory of MRC assets is completed by SVHC. That should be completed by the end of September, she said.
"We are currently waiting for an accurate accounting from SVHC of all MRC funds and equipment that were under their control so that an orderly transference of MRC assets can be accomplished," she said.
The local MRC, launched un 2004, once had as many as 200 volunteers, according to Hathaway. He said the group now has about 25 to 30 volunteers, but hopes to recruit new volunteers to fill out its ranks.
"Unfortunately, due to a lack of organization for a little while it fell by the wayside," he said.
The MRC needs administrative, supply and drivers as volunteers, as well as medical personnel, Hathaway said. Volunteers, including doctors, nurses and EMTs are needed to help staff the Mapleleaf Half Marathon in Manchester on Sept. 8, he said.