SAVES continues to grow, serve community
By Jason Gabak
Since 1992, the third week of May has been dedicated to honoring those who serve in the emergency medical services field.
EMS Week actually began with the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) when President Gerald Ford declared Nov. 3 to 10, 1974 as the first National Emergency Medical Services Week.
This annual observance continued for four more years and was then reinstituted by ACEP in 1982.
Around this time the observance of EMS Week was moved to September.
In 1992 EMS Week was again moved to be the third week in May.
In the Skaneateles community Skaneateles Ambulance Volunteer Emergency Services, better known as SAVES, has been at the heart of emergency medical services for nearly four decades.
In light of EMS week, several members of the SAVES organization recently sat down to recall the past, present and future of the organization and the role it plays in the local community.
George Newton and Jorge Batlle were charter members of SAVES when it began.
Batlle recalled prior to the establishment of SAVES, the only ambulance service per se was provided by two local funeral homes.
Batlle said the hearses were used.
These vehicles were equipped with a cot, oxygen and basic first aid supplies.
The drivers had basic Red Cross First Aid training, but in these early days SAVES was not in a position to truly tend to patients in an emergency situation.
“It is mostly grab and go situations,” Batlle said.
Batlle brought with him his experience from serving as a firefighter in Syracuse.
Newton was a dentist who had recently relocated to Skaneateles when SAVES began to form.
“I was new in town and I wanted to be involved with the community,” Newton said. “I was a dentist so I had some medical training I could offer.”
In these early days of SAVES it was all volunteer and there was a very different climate than there is now.
Batlle said while the volunteers all had some first aid training, it was not like now, where SAVES is a staffed organization with well trained staff who dedicate years of their lives to training to respond to any number of medical emergencies.
“We would just grab and go,” Batlle said. “We were just trying to get people to the hospital back then. It was all volunteer with a little training. You couldn’t do that now.”
Newtown and Batlle have seen firsthand how SAVES has grown over all these years and has developed into the state of the art organization it is today.
They credit much of the growth of SAVES to Jeff VanBeveren, who began as director of operations with SAVES in 2004 and has since become executive director.
“Jeff has done such a good job,” Newton said. “He has led the way. This is a state of the art organization now.”
Staff Paramedic Tom Militello has been with SAVES for five years and spent much of his career as a paramedic in Syracuse.
He pointed to VanBeveren’s leadership and the board of SAVES as being driving forces in making SAVES a strong organization.
“Things are very good here,” Militello said. “After 25 years working in Syracuse it is great working here in this community. But everyone here, Jeff, everyone involved, they are all committed to what we do here. If there is a new piece of equipment we need, we get it. We can address any situation and give people real care not just transport them. We are able to care for people while we are taking them to the hospital.”
This commitment to growth and continued training has been instrumental in addressing emergencies in the community.
With Auburn hospital about six miles away from Skaneateles and Syracuse about 20 miles away, time is crucial.
“We are able to begin care right in the ambulance,” VanBeveren said. “We are able to give the best possible care while we are on the way to the hospital. I think that has been one of the most important things. We are able to give pre-hospital care and we can treat obvious threats and we are proud to be able to provide that kind of care for people I this community.”
While SAVES still have volunteer members, VanBeveren said training has become more thorough and even though there is a paid staff, VanBeveren said it is important to remember SAVES is a not for profit organization.
“We still look to the community for support,” VanBeveren said. “We are fortunate to have the support of the community to help offset our financial needs. We thank the community for their continued support.”