The rural location of Winhall has made timely access to high-quality emergent medical care a challenge, Whitesell said. As a result, he said his department has worked to include a paramedic-level first responder program.
"We're so remote, we rely on ambulance services to come in and pick up our patients and transfer them to hospitals that are, at a minimum, 30 to 40 minutes away. That higher level of care that we can provide quickly can really make a difference in the patient outcome," Whitesell said. "Communities like Bennington typically have a much shorter response time to get a patient to the hospital."
Whitesell said patients picked up in Winhall or Stratton are taken to one of three hospitals -- in Bennington, Brattleboro or Springfield -- depending on the ambulance service and the patient's preference.
The addition of paramedic services means the department is now able to provide the highest possible pre-hospital emergency medical care, according to Whitesell. He said the department currently has two volunteer paramedics that are members of the volunteer rescue squad. A part-time officer, who is a physician assistant, is expected to obtain a paramedic license within the coming year.
Officer Greg Gould, the department's EMS coordinator, said the process of upgrading the department
Paramedics can also perform advanced maneuvers with the 12 lead monitor, including pacing a patient's heart, according to Gould. Paramedics can also administer more medications, including for seizures and pain.
"It's a real bonus for our folks," Whitesell said.
The department already requires all of its full-time police officers to acquire and maintain an EMT certification. "The majority of them, actually all but one, are at the intermediate level," Whitesell said. "It's a great thing for our community and it's great that we're able to provide that level of service."
Winhall Police and Rescue is now one of just three licensed paramedic-level first response squads in the state, according to Whitesell. He said that in 2002 the department became one of a handful of police departments in the country to operate a dual-service department by providing both police and EMS services.
The department provides an average response time of about six minutes to a medical emergency within Winhall and the Stratton, Whitesell said. The department includes a volunteer division that currently has eight volunteer EMTs. The volunteers live nearby and respond to medical emergencies. The department work closely with the Londonderry, Manchester and Stratton Mountain ambulance services, he said.
Two paramedics have been volunteering with the department for about six months but the department just recently met the final requirements from the state.
"We're fortunate in that we have two paramedics that live in Winhall that work on a volunteer basis with us," Whitesell said.