College implements new medical transportation system

The College has collaborated with the Williamstown-based Village Ambulance Service (VAS) to create a new non-emergency transportation system for students to various medical services in Bennington and Berkshire counties.

The free van service will be available to all students from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and from midnight to 8 a.m. seven days a week. It is intended for doctors’ appointments, X-rays, testing, physical therapy and other non-emergency needs.

In order to arrange a ride, students must ask Health Services or Campus Safety and Security (Security) staff to request a vehicle. The drivers will then depart from either Hopkins Hall or the Health Center, depending on the daily schedule.

“In comparison to the transportation support we were providing on our own, the VAS agreement provides service to a much broader geographic range than Security could – throughout all of Berkshire and Bennington Counties,” Steve Klass, Vice President for Campus Life, said. “This is especially important now that the full range of hospital services are further from campus in the new regional healthcare model.”

In the past, there was no formal system in place to transport students to and from various hospitals, which created liability issues and required that various parties take time away from work on campus to coordinate and provide transportation.

In the spring, when NARH closed, transportation became even more difficult.

“The closing of North Adams Hospital – not only its emergency room but outpatient labs, X-rays, psych services, etc – put a significant strain on College Security,” Dr. Erwin Stuebner, President of Village Ambulance, said.

However, according to Klass, the College had been considering new transportation options even before the hospital closed.

“We were already studying the increasing impact of non-emergent medical transportation on campus resources before the closure of NARH was announced,” Klass said. “[Security] had been discussing the growing significant stress on its resources over the past years as students’ general needs to get to and from both scheduled and unscheduled medical visits increased.”

According to a study conducted by the College, in recent years, Security had provided an estimated 1000 non-emergency transports each year. In addition, faculty and staff from Health Services and the Athletic Department had also provided rides in some cases.

After deciding to develop a new program, this summer, Klass collaborated with Stuebner and other VAS staff to work out the details.

According to Klass, VAS was an obvious choice because of the College’s past positive experiences with VAS in addition to VAS’s strong ties in the community with medical service providers. Klass also noted that by providing non-emergent services, VAS would be able to expand its programming to offer similar non-emergency transportation programs to other local entities and potentially increase its financial stability. In past years, VAS has only offered emergency transportation.

Stuebner explained: “This is a novel, prototype service and will, we anticipate, take a while to get all the bugs out. In the end, both the College and VAS are hopeful that the experience gained with the College will allow VAS to expand this type of service to the larger community.”

Klass recommends that students with questions about the program contact Angie Marano, the director of administrative services in Student Health Services.

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