GW considers buying new ambulance

The University is contemplating purchasing a second ambulance for its student-run emergency volunteer crew to man the Mount Vernon Campus.

Darrell Darnell, the senior associate vice president for safety and security, said the Vern “would benefit from additional emergency services” slated to start this fall, results which were based on a review of emergency services on the satellite campus.

Darnell declined to share specifics about that review, including what prompted the evaluation.

“We are evaluating what it will take to increase the level of emergency services on the Mount Vernon Campus. Purchasing an ambulance for the fall is a potential solution we are considering,” Darnell said Wednesday.

EMeRG, a team of about 70 students, responds to more than 30 callers per week for medical assistance on Foggy Bottom, many of whom are then transported to the GW Hospital.

The Student Association reached out to Darnell’s office earlier this week to discuss its plan to buy another ambulance for EMeRG. The SA Finance Committee decided this weekend to make the purchase from its own funding pool. Executive Vice President Ted Costigan said he met Monday with Darnell, and was told the University would fund the ambulance.

“If we were to find [the Office of Safety and Security] was going to go back on that, we are going to step in,” Costigan said.

Chair of the finance committee John Bennett said the organization will wait until April 10 for the University to make a decision. An outside volunteer organization offered to sell one of its ambulances to EMeRG for $12,000 – a fraction of the $150,000 estimated cost of a new ambulance – but the other organization will trade in its vehicle April 10.

EMeRG first bought an ambulance in 2006 and has been seeking a second vehicle to replace the one that went out of service in 2010. Each week, between five and 10 students must be transported to the hospital by a D.C. ambulance, because either the volunteers are on another call or the ambulance is out of service.

Students are not charged when transported by the EMeRG ambulance, but students using a D.C. Fire and EMS unit ambulance must pay as much as $800 to drive to the hospital, depending on their location.

“There is a real need for this ambulance. It’s an essential need to provide safety and security for students,” Kush Das, the highest ranking student in EMeRG and a three-year member, said.

“I’m glad all the players are coming together and they know that the sustenance of EMeRG standard operations is dependent on us having a second ambulance,” Das said.

The organization began working with the SA earlier this month to secure an ambulance by the fall, citing the high cost for students who are transported by city vehicles.

A collision in September put the ambulance out of service for a month, Das said.

He said students must also use D.C. services when new staff members are learning to drive the ambulance, which involves a multiple-hour training session.

“I think the best part of the second ambulance is that we will be in service whenever there are students on this campus,” Das said. “That’s huge, because the 10,000 undergrads won’t be paying to go to the hospital.”

The University Police Department oversees EMeRG and provides partial funding for the student organization, which peaked at about $80,000 in 2008. The organization also received $5,000 from the SA this year – money that funds new member training and uniforms. This year’s funding is a slight dip from the $6,600 allocation three years ago.

For any organization, including EMeRG, to operate an ambulance, it must receive certification from national and regional transportation regulatory bodies. When EMeRG purchased its first ambulance, it took two years before it could become operational. Darnell said the process will be much smoother this time, though he did not specify what would be different.

This post was updated on April 2, 2012 to reflect the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Kush Das is a four-year member of EMeRG. Das is a three-year member of the organization.
Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.

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