Paid ambulance service on its way

April 24, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson County's first paid ambulance service, designed to help volunteer crews deal with an increasing number of calls, should be in place by July 1, officials say.

The Jefferson County Commissioners approved $376,000 for the service, which will be used to hire five paramedics and four emergency medical technicians.

The staff will be divided among four volunteer fire stations in the county, and will use the equipment in the volunteer departments, said Steve McKinney, president of the Jefferson County Ambulance Authority.

The funding will also pay for a 24-hour "chase car," which will respond to all calls and help volunteers who may not be able to respond to calls at night, said McKinney.


County officials started putting together a plan for paid ambulance service after volunteer crews said they were having trouble responding to a growing number of calls in the county, which total about 3,000 a year.

The toughest time was during the day, when volunteers are trying to hold down jobs while answering calls.

Doug Pittinger, ambulance chief for the Shepherdstown Fire Department, said all the volunteer departments in the county have agreed to the plan.

Pittinger's department supported a $2.2 million plan that would have provided twice as much manpower, but voters turned down a bond issue to fund the service in the general election in November.

"We know it's not the ideal answer. But it's better than nothing," Pittinger said.

Pittinger said there are attractive features about the current plan, including $10,000 a year for training for volunteer ambulance crews and insurance for all the volunteer ambulance companies in the county.

The insurance will save all the departments about $20,000 a year, he said.

The proposal initially had a $475,000 price tag, but volunteer departments decided to chip in about $100,000 for the plan.

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