Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

GERMS Vans Critically Ill

By Heather Murphy Hoya Staff Writer

Without reliable ambulances, student-run Georgetown Emergency Response Medical Service is struggling to provide service to students in need, according to organization officials.

Last week, mechanical difficulties sporadically kept both of GERMS’ two ambulances out of operation. Without ambulances, GERMS could not respond to students who called the campus emergency hotline. Students requesting medical assistance were told to hang up and dial 911. These calls were then handled by the District of Columbia Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services, according to GERMS President Suzanne Duke (COL ’01).

GERMS returned to service Wednesday. However, Duke said that the only functioning ambulance is unreliable. She said that GERMS is at risk of going out of operation again at any time.

Without a working ambulance, GERMS must go into “first response” mode through which volunteers respond on foot carrying a small equipment pack. “With the weather, I don’t think that’s safe for us to be doing, especially at night,” Duke said. She added that in order for GERMS to provide proper care, they need at least one, preferably two, working ambulances. “You render the best care you can, or you defer to someone who can do it,” said Duke.

GERMS has deferred to the district fire department. But according to Duke, “D.C. Fire is good, but it has its own set of issues.” She said that the district fire department has a response time of around 30 minutes while GERMS’ responds to calls in four to five minutes. Last weekend, the district fire department took several students to the District of Columbia Health and Public Hospital (D.C. General) instead of the Georgetown University Hospital’s Emergency Room, Duke said. GERMS guarantees transport to the Georgetown ER. Duke said that the district fire department charges students between $400 and $900 for service and transport. GERMS care and transport is free.

The GERMS primary ambulance is three years old and its back-up ambulance is 22 years old. Both are actually just converted Ford vans. Because of this conversion, the cost of repairing the numerous mechanical and electrical problems to the newer van would be greater than simply purchasing a new one, Duke said. When the newer ambulance is out of service, GERMS is forced to use the older model, though the brakes on the old ambulance have failed numerous times in the past. One driver reportedly had to throw the emergency brake in order to get the ambulance to stop.

After being out of service for a week, the newer ambulance was returned from the shop last Wednesday. “Things are back to the normal procedure for now, but we don’t have a back up,” Duke said. “Should the ambulance have problems, we will have to go right out of service again.”

GERMS has typically had two reliable ambulances, she said, and a new ambulance would cost $60,000 to $70,000 to purchase. Already this year, GERMS has spent thousands of dollars on repairs, though Duke did not give an exact figure.

GERMS has a total budget of $26,000 a year, Duke said. It is funded through the university student programs budget, fundraising and revenues from its EMT class. This budget must cover all equipment and legal fees, she said.

Duke sees the funding dilemma as a structural problem, saying, “It goes back to the enigma that GERMS is on a university campus. GERMS is a professional EMS organization bound by national and district regulations and it is also a volunteer student organization offering entirely free service.”

The last GERMS president, Tristan Gorrindo (COL ’99) is working towards a solution to its funding dilemma. Gorrindo said, “Current GERMS cannot contact alumni directly.” Gorrindo has built an Internet system for GERMS alumni. Through the system, alumni can be contacted for fundraising purposes.

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