Banks Wines and Spirits raising funds for ambulance gear

After the Valentine’s Day buildup (or letdown, depending on how one looks at it) there will be something else to look forward to this February, thanks to Banks Wines and Spirits in Millville. The shop is holding a fundraiser on Friday, Feb. 18, from 6 to 11 p.m. at Cripple Creek Golf and Country Club in Dagsboro to benefit Millville Volunteer Fire Company EMS.

In addition, tickets in a raffle for a Royal Caribbean cruise for two, with cruise arrangements through Dream Vacations, are being sold for $5, and the winner will be drawn at Cripple Creek Golf and Country Club that same night. (The winner need not be present to claim their prize.)

This particular fundraiser is being organized to raise money for a bariatric stretcher, which Tom Moore, ambulance supervisor of the Millville Volunteer Fire Company, explained will both make their obese patients more comfortable while they’re being transported and help the EMS workers. That comes at a steep price of $15,000.

Moore explained that, for larger patients, it is possible to transport them on a regular stretcher, but the bariatric stretcher – which offers an attachment that makes the stretcher wider and allows it to hold up to about 750 pounds – makes it more comfortable for everyone involved.

“I’m not saying you can’t do it [with a regular stretcher] but it is very uncomfortable,” he said. “And this is powered, so the EMS workers don’t have to bend. He added that the stretcher is powered by a button to go up and down, and the only time the workers have to actually lift is when they are putting the patient in he ambulance. With the bariatric stretcher, the whole process can be done more efficiently and with greater respect for the patient.

Moore said that, for some ambulance companies, plywood has been resorted to as an option for transport for larger patients, which can make for an embarrassing, uncomfortable and sometimes life-threatening situation for the patient, as they can sometimes opt to preserve their pride over getting the help they need. It can be a dangerous situation for workers, as well.

“Bethany Beach has a bariatric stretcher, and we had to call it in several times last year,” said Moore. “It makes it a little more dignified for the larger patients, saves the backs of the EMTs and will help us serve our district better,” concluded Moore.

In a letter written earlier this year by Gordon Wood, Bob Powell and Tom Moore of the Millville Volunteer Fire Company, they highlighted that the otherwise volunteer-operated fire company has eight employees on the payroll – emergency medical technicians paid with company funds. They further noted that the Millville Volunteer Fire Company responded to an estimated 1,400 calls in 2010, and estimated that they would drive the company’s three ambulances more than 25,000 miles in the upcoming year.

“Operating the company ambulance service costs over a half a million dollars per year, not including the cost of replacing ambulances. The annual costs will increase with population growth and advances in medical care technology,” they wrote.

“Our company 2010 budget, including fire, emergency and ambulance services, but not including new ambulance purchases, is over $1 million,” they continued. “The biggest source of ambulance service income is billing for ambulance services, $373,000 in 2009. Persons receiving service from MVFC are billed an average of $450 for each call. Those with medical insurance are billed through their provider. Those without insurance are billed directly. If the insurance company does not reimburse billings fully, the remainder is billed directly.”

State and county grants and aid provided just over $100,000 of the company’s ambulance service budget in 2009, $73,500 coming from Sussex County and $27,300 from the state. The state contribution specifically to the ambulance-service budget was half of the $54,600 total state grant to the MVFC.

“The balance of our budget comes from your contributions during our annual Ambulance Fund Drive and fundraising programs,” the fire company representatives noted. “In 2009,the Ambulance Fund Drive raised over $173,000. The fund drive makes it possible to meet our budget and plan for replacing ambulances.”

They went on to say that 2010 contributions were behind the level of the year before as of September of 2010, and that a reduction of services, including missed calls, could be an outcome of budget shortfalls.

It is because of those concerns that the Millville Volunteer Fire Company is already working hard to maintain the services they provide, and that makes local fundraisers, such as the one to raise funds for this piece of equipment for the EMS, tremendously important to their mission.

“It’s critical for us because the amount of money that we get from the State, as well as the County, is not enough to fund the operation,” said Bob Powell, MFVC public information officer. “We rely very heavily on outside donations, the Town of Ocean View grant and any other fundraising we may have helps us to reach our budget we set.”

Tickets for the fundraiser are on sale now at Banks Wines and Spirits, Millville Town Hall, Millville Volunteer Fire Company, and Cripple Creek Golf and Country Club and cost $60. Admission to the event includes food, wine, beer – including hand-crafted brews by Evolution Craft Brewing Company – and entertainment. Banks Wines and Sprits is located at 302 Atlantic Avenue in Millville. For information, call (302) 537-8008 or visit