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Jefferson Co. gets new emergency medical team

September 13, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - It didn't long take for Jefferson County's new paid ambulance service to prove its worth.

In its first week, one of the new paramedics riding in a "chase car," a car equipped with medical supplies, was on his way to Charles Town when he heard a call about a man with respiratory distress in Millville.

The paramedic met a volunteer ambulance crew at the scene.

Because they didn't have a paramedic on board, the volunteers could not administer the IV and medication the man needed.

The paramedic in the chase car arrived, provided the treatment and the man was taken to Jefferson Memorial Hospital, said Ed Smith, a local fire chief who is overseeing the new paid ambulance service.

"It was a real life-or-death situation," said Smith, chief of the Independent Fire Co. in Ranson.

"I think it's going to prove itself real quickly that it is a valuable asset," Smith said of the new service, which went into effect last Sunday.

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Response times, the amount of time it takes for an ambulance to leave its station after an alert, have greatly improved as well, from up to 30 minutes to about two minutes, Smith said.

County officials began considering a plan for paid ambulance service after volunteer crews said they were having trouble responding to a growing number of calls, which total about 3,000 a year.

The toughest time was during the day, when volunteers were at work.

County rescue officials and the Jefferson County Commissioners considered several plans before deciding to spend $376,000 for the new service.

The paid service employs four paramedics and four emergency medical technicians. The paramedics work 12-hour shifts operating the chase car, which provides 24-hour service, Smith said.

Three of the emergency medical technicians are working a 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift at the Blue Ridge, Shepherdstown and Harpers Ferry fire stations, and the fourth is working a 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. shift at Independent.

The heavier coverage during the daylight hours covers the time when volunteers were having the most trouble responding.

Depending on the severity of the calls, paid crews will give volunteer squads a chance to respond to emergencies after they are dispatched, Smith said.

911 dispatchers will soon be receiving advanced medical training that will allow them to determine whether the patient requires urgent care, Smith said.

Paid crew members, who are paid between $10 and $12.50 an hour, will use volunteer squad equipment.

Volunteers will be paid $10 for any call they respond on to give them an incentive for their service, Smith said.

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