Close to 300 people attended Thursday night's Rescue 33 public forum at Three Sisters Park to either show support for the squad and/or get their questions answered.
The meeting, which lasted around two hours, consisted of Rescue 33 President Ron Hedden explaining background information and changes planned for the future. Special guests talked about billing and the differences between paramedics and EMT-Basics.
Former Rescue 33 EMT Paul Richardson, now the chief of medical services in Hancock County, spoke on the differences between the basic and paramedic level of service. He is a paramedic, and stressed that in studies, less than 10 percent of patients have a "life-changing result" due to a paramedic being on scene.
He also said the notion that if a paramedic is not on scene, residents will suffer in pain due to basic EMTs not being able to give pain medication. He estimated that in his 15 years as a paramedic, he had utilized pain medication about 20 times.
Another special guest was Tadd Mitchell of Stark County Ambulance Service, who spoke briefly on billing.
Hedden said while Rescue 33 cannot hire anyone right now, they plan to hire Stark County to handle the billing for them.
One resident asked what happened if a patient did not have insurance.
Hedden said the squad hopes to have an operating fund which would have allowances for those without insurance. Everyone will receive a bill, however.
In simplistic terms, if Rescue 33 can regain a license to operate, then residents will see the squad operate in the same fashion for more than four decades, with a few changes.
First, the care residents received from Rescue 33 will remain the same as in the past at the EMT-Basic level. If advanced care, or paramedic level, is needed, then an intercept with Advanced Medical Transport will be called, just like squad members did in the past, Hedden said.
The squad is projecting to go to a paramedic level three to five years from now.
What will change is that residents will receive bills for Rescue 33's services. In the past, the trips were all free.
Residents also asked about being tax supported, which Hedden said the squad's goal is to not be tax supported.
The estimated cost of operating the squad will go from about $120,000 to $250,000 to $300,000.
Response times will be different from years ago in that EMTs will wait for the calls at the ambulance garage.
Hedden cited that in 2008 the average response time to be on scene was 6.8 minutes, but in August of 2012, after hiring EMTs to wait at the garage, the time was cut to 3 minutes. The squad averaged 2.8 to 3 calls per day.
Some of the residents who needed Rescue 33 in the past were at the meeting and spoke to Rescue 33's care.
Page 2 of 2 - One man who said he has breathing problems due to asbestos, asked how much it would cost to take him to the hospital if needed.
"Rescue 33's taken me in a couple of times, and I've had no problems," he said.
Troy Smith spoke of his experience in dealing with both Rescue 33 and AMT in dealing with the death of relatives.
"Chillicothe is neighbors helping neighbors," Smith said.
Alderman Gary Sharp, who is married to Rescue 33's longtime treasurer, also spoke from the crowd.
For more than four decades, he described the community to have "fallen in love with Rescue 33."
He said he was not aware of any petitions for AMT, only for Rescue 33.
"The best thing I can tell you is to get out and support Rescue 33," said Sharp, saying he would represent the people with his vote at the council table.
While the night was serious, a few doughnut jokes erupted. Donut Days in mid-March is the squad's major annual fundraiser, which they are planning to continue.
"I'm looking around the room and I see a lot of potential doughnut makers here," said resident Jim Wright.
All joking aside, Rescue 33 has garnered support letters from the townships where it formerly operated.
"You all know what we've done in the past and we'll be better in the future," said Hedden.
Petitions are still around town for residents to sign if Rescue 33 is their choice.