The group has responded to hundreds of emergency medical calls in Queens County, but with membership numbers low and retirement age approaching for the remaining responders, WQFR officially disbanded May 15.
All emergency medical calls in West Queens will still be routed to the local ambulance base through 911 to respond, which will then request other assistance as necessary.
The society was formed in 1998, and has been doing medical first response (MFR) faithfully day and night for 13 years. The group started out strong with about 10 members, however over the last six months the team dwindled to just chief Ron Campbell and MFR member Holly Bolivar.
After a lot of thought, Campbell says he and Bolivar came to the realization the service cannot continue with only two people.
“We have advertised to try and get some younger members in, but there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of interest right at this point in time,” says Campbell. “That may change, and we're hoping it will.”
The ambulance was handed back over to the Region of Queens after the two officially retired, but Campbell says he plans to leave the paging system in place for a while in the hopes someone younger will come along. He says if someone younger does take over, he will stay certified and on call to help when he can.
Without WQFR, Campbell says it will mean a longer response time to get medical assistance to the community.
“It's unfortunate, but there's nothing we can do,” says Campbell. “It is sad that it's coming to an end.”
Although he is disappointed, Campbell says he and Bolivar did a lot of soul searching before coming to this conclusion. As much as they both love helping the community, he says it was time to look after their own health.
“We have advertised to try and get some younger members in, but there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of interest right at this point in time. That may change, and we're hoping it will.” - Chief Ron Campbell
“This is the best decision for us at this point in time,” he says. “The community was very receptive to first response over the last 13 years and very supportive as well. Hopefully they'll support our decision to retire.”
Campbell says there was a lot of interest and willingness to train among the community at first, but over time they began to lose members. Reasons ranged from some just not finishing their training, to others feeling like it was too much to handle while raising small children. It is for this reason Campbell is encouraging both young adults without small children, older adults with mature children, and those without a family, to consider WQFR.
“To raise a small family and do first response, it's a lot of sacrifices getting up in the middle of the night and that sort of thing,” says Campbell. “It’s not for everyone.”
Though Campbell says the responsibilities could be a struggle sometimes, serving the community for the past 13 years was a wonderful and worthwhile experience. He says he and his team were all very passionate about it.
“Just helping people. You do it because they're your friends and neighbours,” he says. “I'd like to be able to keep on doing it, but like I say it's time to retire.”
Anyone interested in rekindling the West Queens Medical First Responders Society can contact Ron Campbell at 350-0413, or the Region of Queens. Questions can also be directed to EHS, or local fire halls.