Events such as the incident last week when an emergency medical crew locked itself inside an ambulance out of fear of a mob in Perryman are stark reminders of a daily reality that's worth keeping in mind during discussions of the finances and organization of the Harford County ambulance service.
While there are serious and potentially expensive problems associated with the cumbersome management structure overseeing an odd blend of paid and volunteer emergency medical service providers, the quality of care they provide and their general dedication to the work they do, be it paid or volunteer, are as good as it gets.
In Harford County, which for many years relied strictly on volunteers to provide emergency ambulance service, the term volunteer could never have been equated to amateur. A high degree of medical training and certification is required before anyone, paid or volunteer, can treat patients in emergency situations. It's worth pointing out that many people who volunteer locally are professionals paid to do the exact same work for fire companies elsewhere in the region. Furthermore, a fair number of career emergency medical services people got their basic training – and in many cases training well beyond the basics - by volunteering with local fire and ambulance companies.
Over the years, these ambulance crews, volunteer and in more recent years paid and volunteer, have shown a determined willingness to answer the call of duty across the county, be it to treat people hurt in violent incidents in bad neighborhoods, or to help those suffering from debilitating chronic ailments with symptoms that are unpleasant, to say the least.
In the case of the ambulance crew that was surrounded by an unruly mob last week in Perryman, this level of dedication was typically manifest. When the crowd dispersed as police were on the way, the patient was treated and transported to a local hospital.
It says a lot that people who were in fear, possibly for their own lives, in one moment could shift so quickly to work on helping someone else whose health was in danger. Such service is as good as it gets.