KEYSER - In recent years the number of volunteers available to answer Emergency Medical Services calls has been on the decline.

For the News Tribune
KEYSER - In recent years the number of volunteers available to answer Emergency Medical Services calls has been on the decline.
All across the state of West Virginia county after county is moving to a completely paid system, with Hampshire County being the most recent county to implement fully staffed ambulances.
According to Luke McKenzie, director of emergency management and 911 in Mineral County, “We are not a stranger to the problem.
“Although Mineral County is in a much better situation with our volunteers than what most counties are around the state, we still have a problem,” he said.
At a recent meeting, the Mineral County Commission voted unanimously to move forward with entering into a contract with Valley Medical Transport to provide a paid paramedic chase car that will respond to EMS calls throughout the county. Valley Medical Transport was the only interested bidder for the contract.
The committee voluntarily sought the advice of the State Ethics Commission to ensure the highest level of integrity was maintained during the process in regards to the employees of Valley Medical Transport who are members in good-standing with the Mineral County Ambulance Authority.
According to various members of the chase car committee that was appointed by the Mineral County Ambulance Authority (MCAA), the plan has been in the development stages for well over a year.
The committee includes members from various fire and emergency medical services departments around the county, and several citizens who are employed or versed in emergency services.
The chase car will be staffed by highly experienced ALS providers hand-selected by Valley Medical Transport operations manager Chris Guynn, who also serves on the MCAA, is the chair of the MCAA Truck Committee, county medical examiner, president of the Mineral County Medics Association, and long-time volunteer county paramedic.
In recent months, the committee formed a budget for the Ambulance Authority’s operations and factored in the chase car. This service will cost the Ambulance Authority approximately $89,000 per year plus the cost of routine maintenance and the purchase of a vehicle.
The Ambulance Authority has an annual revenue of a little over $230,000. In the past the MCAA has only purchased ambulances with this money. In an attempt to better utilize this taxpayer money, the Ambulance Authority will not be replacing ambulances as frequently now as what they have in the past. In fact, last year, president Steve Rexrode spear-headed a campaign to outfit squads in the county with state-of-the-art cardiac monitors, video laryngoscopes, or Lucas3 automated CPR machines for those squads who had already updated their monitors.
This was the first time in the history of the Ambulance Authority that a substantial amount of money was used for something other than ambulance purchases.
Four brand new ambulances have also been added to the county fleet in the past three years. Short Gap, Ridgeley, Wiley Ford, and Keyser EMS have all had aging units replaced.
Ambulance Authority vice president Lauren Trenter stated, “This is the beginning of new era. We have some of the best ambulances in the state. We are now going to focus on education, training, equipment, and staffing.”
She also added, “This program is only meant to assist squads to provide the highest level of care we can to the citizens of the county when the volunteers need supplementary services. This is designed to help, not harm. Until every call for service in the county is answered and answered promptly, we will always have room to improve our service, because every life matters.”
According to Colby Simpson, a longtime member of the Ambulance Authority and the chair of the Chase Car Committee, “It is not uncommon for this authority to replace ambulances with less than 40,000 miles. If we use this money more wisely and use these ambulances to their full potential, the Ambulance Authority will still have plenty of money for their operations even after paying for the contract with Valley Medical Transport to provide a paramedic.”
At this time the chase car is going to be staffed with one paramedic for 50 hours per week and the vehicle will respond to calls throughout the entire county.
“The purpose in this program is to reduce wait times and provide the highest level of care to the citizens of Mineral County in an efficient and cost effective manner,” McKenzie said.
“This vehicle will not be able to transport patients, however what they can do is get to the scene before an ambulance and initiate care. The paramedic on this vehicle will be able to start an IV, run an EKG, start CPR or do whatever is necessary to stabilize a patient until we can get an ambulance on scene to transport,” he said.
“The other great thing about this program is that if a station doesn’t have a driver and an emergency medical technician to staff their ambulance, a driver can bring the ambulance and the paramedic on the chase vehicle can make a full crew,” says McKenzie.
The Mineral County Ambulance Authority is funded by the Emergency Medical Services levy. The implementation of this program will not cost the taxpayers of Mineral County anything additional. The program will be simply utilizing the levy funds that are already in place.
If anyone has any questions about the program, they can contact the Mineral County Commission or Luke McKenzie at the Office of Emergency Management at mineraloem@yahoo.com or by calling 304-788-1821 ext. 6.
The committee says that as the commission approves the details of the program more information will be released and information will be given to the public so they understand the process. The vehicle is expected to be fully operational by early summer.