This school really needs to reconsider how clubs and organizations get their budgets, because after spending 24 hours riding along with the Stony Brook Volunteer Ambulance Corps. (SBVAC), I can really say it deserves so much more than what the school provides for the corps. Riding along gave me a whole new perspective in how the company runs its calls, treats its patients, and how much it really does for the campus on the tiny budget that it receives.
The fact that the organization is comprised of volunteers is what separates SBVAC from the surrounding agencies and the ones I’ve had encounters with. As a former patient of both SBVAC and another off campus ambulance agency that gave me a bill of 800 dollars, I’d choose SBVAC any day. As volunteers, the EMTs of SBVAC do everything because they care, rather than for the paycheck. Normally a call to 911 leaves you with a huge bill, but with SBVAC’s being a free service to students, one would only assume that SBVAC is being compensated well. Looking into the budget, or, more appropriately, the lack thereof, I got an opportunity to spend time riding along with SBVAC to learn more about why an ambulance corps budget was being cut, and it was managing without sufficient funds.
One call that really stood out to me was one to the Long Island State Veterans Home. Here, patients are treated everyday for illnesses in their old age, and SBVAC receives many calls from the home. On my ride along, I got a chance to see how well the crew on shift interacted with the patients. Within a minute of the call’s going out to pick up a bleeding patient from the veteran’s home, Dan was already in the ambulance with the lights and sirens ready to go. Frankie, the crew chief, sat in front getting his paperwork together, and in the back I watched Jack and Damian get the stretcher and their bags ready. Even Chief Daniel sped to the scene in his own car, and normally does so to make sure every calls run smooth.
It took us about seven minutes to get the patient and leave, but within that time, the crew had somehow managed to make the patient comfortable and okay with the situation. Frankie kept checking his oxygen mask to make sure the patient was comfortable with a mask on, brought blankets and made sure no belongings would be lost. Dan got paperwork while Damian helped with patient care. On the ride to the hospital and at the emergency room, the crew did everything it could to keep the patient calm, comfortable and do its job at the same time. The crew’s attention to the small details is what separates SBVAC from many agencies. Sometimes, the crew can’t even do anything, as the patient is in need of a hospital rather than emergency care; yet in those situations, they treat the patient no different.
It’s very hard to convey emotions in writing, but it was honestly touching to see volunteer EMTs care so much about a patient. They will never hear about the patient after they drop them off, so to them it could be a meaningless job, but it’s this that makes SBVAC such an important organization to have on campus. It’s never a meaningless job or call. They take each call without judgment and respond to even minor issues as fast as they can. The other EMS agencies whom I’ve had encounters with only fought about who would take the patient so that they could bill them. It was a horrible experience altogether, and one I never had or will have with SBVAC. Getting into an ambulance as a sick patient is never fun or comfortable, but the effort SBVAC takes in order to make sure every member fits into the agency’s dynamics really pays off. It was obvious through the patient care that I saw the EMTs give that they all understood the importance of their work, and how to work with each other to a level of perfection and, above all, make the patient their number one priority.
It took a neighboring department 27 minutes to find Roth. It takes SBVAC 4. In the case of a life or death situation, though I’m not medically qualified to say so, it’s a safe bet to say an extra 23 minutes is way too long. In fairness to the neighboring agency, they normally don’t respond to campus calls, but what if they had to? If we didn’t have SBVAC, people would be waiting a lot longer for an ambulance and be paying more than they would want to, like I did. There are so many advantages of an ambulance corps on campus and no negatives. Some may find the budget to be a negative, but financially, SBVAC would be the cheapest and most convenient option for the school. It was on a Thursday overnight with Chief Daniel, Roxana, Zach and Rob that I figured out what SBVAC meant when members kept telling me no other agency could figure out the campus. Going through the buildings, I would have been lost if I wasn’t trained in the layout of the campus. Their knowledge of the campus is a skill set that is unique to the agency, and a lot of it has to do with the volunteers’ mostly being campus residents. Though other agencies can provide the same services at the same standards, the university is lucky to have a personalized service that strives to serve the students for free.
The word free needs to be repeated over and over. SBVAC charges nothing for its services, yet has a basic operating budget of $200,000, of which $140,000 comes from the Undergraduate Student Government (USG). With this, it serves the campus, surrounding community, countless campus events such as sports, concerts and events such as the Roth Regatta. SBVAC is a vital tool that we have on campus, yet struggle every year to get a proper, functional budget. This year especially, it waited over a semester to receive a single check from USG, forcing the agency to dip into its savings. As a company, it’s doing everything possible to maintain standards and fight a lacking budget from the school. Those savings would have gone to a new ambulance to replace the rapidly aging, 16 year old ambulance that barely starts up. On the call to the Veterans Home, Dan didn’t even switch the ambulance off (as per his training) because he knew it probably would have an issue starting up again, which this is a common problem. Dan can’t switch off the engine of an emergency vehicle because it’s too old to start up again. At this point I don’t need to point out that this is obviously beyond ridiculous, which is an understatement.
I don’t understand how this is still up for debate in USG and, more importantly, how the administration hasn’t stepped in at this point. Though USG is not the only source of money, it is the largest and really the only source that gives something substantial. SBVAC isn’t asking for money to aimlessly spend. It’s asking for money to spend on the community.
It wants to keep shaping the agency, but with such a struggle to receive money, its hard work is going unnoticed. No person in his or her right mind can call an agency greedy when it asks for more money to just meet the minimum operational cost, especially when its service is emergency medicine.
I pay so many fees to this school, how come one can’t protect my health? On every single call I went to, I was truly amazed at the work a full-time student can do. I was so exhausted after my overnight with the crews, and to know that they all do it at least once a week is beyond dedication to this school and its population. SBVAC has supported our campus for over 40 years, and it’s time that someone helps them out.