Rescue 114, which is operated by the Mid-County Rescue Squad, covers one of the largest emergency services areas in the state of Michigan. EagleHerald/Emily Harwood
Rescue 114, which is operated by the Mid-County Rescue Squad, covers one of the largest emergency services areas in the state of Michigan. EagleHerald/Emily Harwood

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STEPHENSON — Mid-County Rescue Squad covers 1,000 square miles, which is the largest area in the state of Michigan for a single emergency rescue squad department. However, its ability to continue servicing that area relies solely on its volunteers. 

EMTs Jim Bedient and Patti Lepisto spoke about their experiences on the squad and Mid-County’s need for volunteers at an open-house March 4.

“We’re the rescue squad: It’s an ambulance service,” Bedient said. “If you call 911 within our area for a medical emergency, you’re getting us.”

Currently, there 44 volunteers on the Mid-County Rescue roster. However, even with more than 40 members, Mid-County still has difficulty filling its schedule on a daily basis.

Mid-County Rescue is looking for volunteers to fill its three positions: EMTs (emergency medical technicians), MFRs (medical first responders) and drivers. 

“The difference between EMTs and MFRs is that MFRs do about 80 percent of what the EMT does, but they’re not qualified to handle drugs,” Bedient said. “Each run needs two medical people, including at least one EMT, but MFRs share many of the same responsibilities.”

EMTs and MFRs are held to the same qualifications and standards as full-time paid EMTs and MFRs. However, new volunteers do not need already be licensed EMTs or MFRs when joining.

“Sometimes we will have new volunteers who are already licensed as EMTs or MFRs and we get a lot of firefighters who participate as drivers,” Bedient said. “Generally, new volunteers come to us with no training or qualifications.”

Mid-County provides on-the-job training for each potion, but EMTs and MFRs are also required to take specialized courses to become certified in the state of Michigan.

“We desperately need EMTs, but you put in a lot of time to become qualified,” Lepisto said. EMTs must take 190 hours of classes, while MFRs must take 80 hours of classes. “It’s a commitment.”

“We are in a dire need for EMTs and drivers,” Lepisto said. “If we don’t have an EMT or MFR, the ambulance isn’t leaving the bay.”

Lapisto said that if Mid-County ceased to exist, it would be difficult to service the area for 911 medical emergency calls.

“We’ve talked about the possibility of Mid-County going under and the hospital says they don’t know how they would cover this area,” she said. 

“A lot of people have a false sense of security that if Mid-County goes under, then a company will come in and take over,” Lapisto said. “I can promise you, we don’t have the population to support a full-time paid squad.”

Bedient said Mid-County responds to about one call a day, and no paid, for-profit organization would invest here. “The only way a paid full-time rescue squad could come to the area, it would have to be tax-supported.”

Both Lepisto and Bedient said there are many positive things about joining Mid-County.

“I’ve been on the squad since 1980 and I’ve been on it that long because I’ve enjoyed it,” Lepisto said. She said there is a sense of camaraderie between squad members and it generally feels good to help others in that capacity.

“I can’t think of anything negative about joining the rescue squad,” Lepisto said. “Other than the time it takes to get your EMT or MFR license.”

“You are truly helping people. People are very, very gracious of what we do,” she said.

Bedient agreed with Lepisto. “When you come to someone’s door, they are overjoyed to see you,” he said. “They need you and they’re glad you’re there, and it’s a good feeling.”

Lepisto said another benefit of joining the squad is the EMT and MFR courses also qualify you for several paid jobs in the medical field.

“Even if you don’t turn it into a job, you have experience,” Bedient said. “You will have something on your resume, some very good references.”