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SEMS Seeks Funding for Ambulance, Parking Bay

By Kathy Lin

ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR

MIT’s student Emergency Medical Services (SEMS) program is seeking $200,000 of funding from MIT, and will probably shut down if it does not receive that money.

SEMS has acquired letters of support from various groups and is planning on presenting its case to administrators in the coming month.

Funding needed to cover costs

“Of the $200,000, we need about $80,000 to $85,000 to purchase a new ambulance and the remaining money for a new bay to park the ambulance in,” said Nicolas A. Wyhs ’05, director of ambulance operations for SEMS.

The ambulance that SEMS is currently using has been in use for “over ten years,” and its license will expire in October, Wyhs said. The ambulance is “too old” and “the state said it won’t pass the standards they’ve set for ambulances,” he said.

SEMS needs a new parking bay because “what we have now is more of a garage than an ambulance bay, and it isn’t very secure, as lots of people walk through it every day,” Wyhs said. In addition, they would like to have the bay in a location that is more accessible, he said. Ambulances need special parking bays because they have to be kept above a certain temperature to protect the medicines they carry.

Without the money, SEMS will not be able to get the ambulance and bay that they need for operation, and will probably have to shut down as a result, Wyhs said.

EMS collecting support

“Before MIT goes spending money on us, they want to make sure that we’ll be here for a while and that we’re doing a good job,” said Samuel A. Schweighart G, chief of SEMS.

To show the existing support for SEMS, the group has contacted various community groups and collected letters of support, Schweighart said. The Dormitory Council, the IFC, the UA, MIT athletic trainers, the athletics department, the MIT Police, and the Environmental Health and Safety Office are among those groups, who each wrote their own letters of support, Wyhs said.

Before the creation of SEMS last year, MIT Police were given about $95,000 per year to pay for a private ambulance service, Wyhs said. The student SEMS program would greatly reduce that cost because it is volunteer-run, Wyhs said.

SEMS currently operates from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. every night, as well as from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. on Thursday through Sunday nights. They hope to run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by January of 2004 and thus completely eliminate the need for an outside ambulance service. “We’ll have fees to replace things like splints and Band Aids, but it will be a lot less” than paying for a private service in the long run, he said.

“We’re going to have a meeting with the decision-makers to present what we’ve done so far” sometime in the next month, Schweighart said. “We’re going to put up our case,” Wyhs said, but “it’s their choice to make.”

Support of EMS widespread

The EMS group “has created a very impressive service” and is “extremely professional,” said Clinical Director for Campus Life Maryanne Kirkbride, who is the liaison between MIT Medical and the EMS program.

They have “received a lot of compliments from faculty and staff,” Kirkbride said, adding that she is “very much in favor of continuing the service.” They have “the same training and certification that the professionals have, as well as the added benefit that they know the campus and students very well,” Kirkbride said.

SEMS has also been “working very well with campus police,” said John DiFava, Chief of Campus Police. Although there have been “a few small glitches,” they have been worked out, he said. MIT Police responds to all emergency calls alongside the student Emergency Medical Technicians.

“I’ve been extremely impressed with them,” DiFava said. “They have displayed a remarkable level of dedication, and their attitude is great. They seem to be very good at what they’re doing,” he said. DiFava also believes that the students should receive the funding from the school.

The SEMS program is “terrific,” said Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict, who said that he has been “a strong supporter of the EMS program from the beginning.”

MIT’s current budget is tight, though, and may impact the students’ chances of getting funding, Kirkbride and Benedict said. Plans for finding alternate sources of funding are being developed as well, Benedict said.

SEMS has taken over 100 calls since its inception last July, Wyhs said, and they have not yet received any complaints. They not only provide ambulance service in response to calls, but also attend various sporting events and large gatherings so that they can provide any appropriate services.

There are currently 40 EMTs who ride the ambulance on shifts, and a group of 32 more students have just completed the training, Wyhs said.