Last year was a very, very busy year for the Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps (WVAC). Just under 1,400 emergency medical calls were dispatched to WVAC in 2016, making it the highest volume of calls they’ve been dispatched to in any given year. The increase in call numbers is a continuation of a year-over-year trend of increasing call volumes that WVAC has been seeing the past few years: 1,289 in 2013; 1,329 in 2014; 1,346 in 2015.
What’s more, approximately 45-percent of WVAC calls are to senior living facilities in Wilton, including Wilton Commons, The Greens, Wilton Meadows, Ogden House, School Sisters of Notre Dame and Brookdale Place.
Aging demographics may be one reason for the rising number of calls over the last several years. WVAC president Wendy Fratino says that factor, as well as the addition of denser housing in Wilton, including cluster homes and apartments, may be what’s at work.
But the steady increase means that WVAC is using its resources more frequently and faster. The Ambulance Corps is a private, non-profit organization and not a town-owned or town-administered agency. In fact, the Town of Wilton only pays the WVAC worker’s compensation insurance premium–because it’s required to by CT State statute–and accounts for less than 10-percent of WVAC’s operating expenses. The remaining 90-percent of expenses needs to be covered through donations.
For an organization that continues to exist primarily on funding through community donations, it’s crucial for residents to be reminded of what’s at stake and that in return for the help WVAC always provides the community, financial support from that community is the only thing that will insure the medical aid will always be there.
That message has never been more important than this year with the coming budget cycle, as town officials continue to talk about tighter, bare bones budgets for FY ‘18 and significant hits to state aid. Fratino says WVAC is in the middle of its annual town appeal.
“The donations really help us to fund our daily operations (heat, propane, etc.) and assist us with equipment and medical purchases as well as continuous member training, uniforms, etc.,” Fratino explains. Chief among the need is financial help with the purchase of a new ambulance, which is projected for delivery in mid-to-late 2017. WVAC runs on an eight year replacement cycle, and they’re due for this new vehicle.
Something else WVAC depends on is volunteers–it is the organization’s middle name, after all. While the organization has the highest number of volunteers in recent history, the organization could always use more to meet the growing emergency medical needs of the community.
“The 53 includes members who are away at college, and volunteer when they are home on leave during the holidays and the summer. However, we have not seen an increase in Wilton resident participation. In fact, the majority of our members are from towns outside of Wilton. We’d love to see more Wilton residents become involved with WVAC and help serve the needs of our community,” Fratino adds.
WVAC has been trying to up its profile in town, by participating in more town-wide events.
“We have always tried to be active in the community, but often our volunteer numbers prevent us from participating in events,” Fratino said. “This year we’ve been able to participate due to both our increased number of members as well as due to the efforts of our special events/community outreach chairman, Brian McDermott.”
Sometimes due to a widespread misunderstanding that WVAC is a Town department, organizations and residents are disappointed that WVAC is not present at all Town activities (special events, sports games, etc.). But, as Fratino reminds, WVAC’s first obligation is to answer emergency calls and with its limited resources (people and equipment), WVAC can’t be at all events.
Fratino says the organization is always grateful to Wilton residents who have generously supported WVAC.
“Their continued support will help us to provide emergency medical care on a ‘pay as you need’ basis, without relying on tax dollars. We do charge for emergency services. Our rates are set by the State and the Federal government.”
To learn more or donate directly to WVAC, or to learn about volunteering, visit the WVAC webpage.