The Georgetown Emergency Response Medical Service (GERMS) will now operate during all hours of the weekend after previously cutting operating hours to only weekend nights.
The student-run, volunteer emergency medical services (EMS) organization announced Sept. 24 that it will expand its operating hours to run from Thursdays at 8 p.m. to Mondays at 8 a.m. starting Sept. 30. GERMS had previously been operating only from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays because of staffing shortages in leadership positions.
During the month of September, GERMS leadership trained several members to promote them to crew leader and driver positions, roles that are vital to the operation of the group’s ambulances. The organization now has five members who are qualified to serve as crew leaders and five members who are qualified to serve as drivers, according to Ashley Rensted (COL ’22), GERMS vice president of staff.
This training was crucial to upholding the quality of service the group provides, according to Rensted
“We worked throughout September to promote several members,” Rensted wrote in an email to The Hoya. “This has been something we have been working to do for a very long time, but the process of promoting current members to crew leaders and driver positions takes a significant amount of time as we are not willing to compromise the quality of care that we provide.”
GERMS responds to students suffering from various illnesses, injuries and high intoxication on campus and in the off-campus neighborhoods of West Georgetown, Burleith and Foxhall. The organization also treats medical issues for any resident of these neighborhoods.
In addition to cutting operating hours, GERMS also announced Aug. 24 that it would not be taking any new members for the fall semester in order to focus on promoting current members to crew leader and driver positions, as well as training new members hired during the COVID-19 pandemic. GERMS did not operate between March 2020 and June 2021, meaning the organization had to train those members once they arrived on campus in September, according to Rensted.
Students should call GERMS if they have a medical emergency, according to a university spokesperson.
“This action moves GERMS one step closer to resuming its normal operating hours,” the university spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya. “GERMS is working to train and certify additional students and will be increasing staff in the coming months.”
GERMS plans to continuously expand operating hours during the semester as more members are promoted to leadership positions, aiming to reach its previous 24-hour coverage, according to Rensted. All 50 students who currently make up GERMS have to balance college and work schedules, which the organization must keep in mind when setting operating hours. Rensted said consultation with GERMS volunteers was essential in the decision to expand service hours.
Students who call GERMS outside of its operating hours will automatically be forwarded to the Georgetown University Police Department, who will immediately dispatch D.C. Fire and EMS (FEMS) services.
Both GERMS and FEMS abide by the medical amnesty policy for students, ensuring that after receiving treatment, they will face no disciplinary consequences for underage drinking or drug use. Despite this policy, some students have raised concerns over the convenience of medical services. However, while GERMS ambulance transportation is free for students, FEMS charges between $428 and $735 for its services. In addition, while GERMS typically receives two or three calls per weekday and four to five calls on weekend nights, FEMS usually receives over 400 calls a day.
According to Finn Thompson (COL ’22), GERMS’ new operating hours will benefit student safety on campus.
“They are a crucial aspect of our campus, run by student volunteers who deserve all the credit in the world for training enough members after COVID to reach this kind of coverage,” Thompson wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Without GERMS, students would have to pay exorbitant fees for EMS services and trips to the hospital.”
GERMS’ new expansion of operating hours will hopefully reduce the financial and logistical barriers for students in need of medical treatment, making it easier for students to get immediate, less costly medical help, according to Rensted.
“Our hope is that expanding our hours will make students more willing to call for medical help when they need it,” Rensted wrote.