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Berkeley considers ambulance fee hike

June 06, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A proposal to raise the county's ambulance fee from $25 to $40 brought both critics and supporters to a public hearing Tuesday evening.

The County Commission did not vote on the proposal after the hearing. Commission President D. Wayne Dunham said a vote will probably take place on Thursday, June 15, at the commission's weekly meeting.

Opponents at the hearing objected to the $40 fee on several counts, including the percentage of the increase. They also charged that the Berkeley County Emergency Ambulance Authority could operate more efficiently and could do better in collecting delinquent fees before asking for an increase.

Bill Wiegel, the president of the authority, said it collects about 82 percent of the fees. Civil litigation on delinquent accounts raises the number to about 90 percent, although an attorney receives a portion of that recovered revenue, he said.

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Gary Collis, the authority's program manager, said the higher fee would pay for a third station that is being built in north Berkeley County. The extra $15 would generate approximately $300,000 more a year, allowing the authority to hire more employees to staff the new station, he said.

It would require three new paramedics and three new emergency medical technicians at that north-end station for it to provide service 24 hours a day, five days a week, according to Collis.

The other two stations are in Martinsburg and Inwood, W.Va.

Since 1990, every residence in Berkeley County, outside the city of Martinsburg, has been assessed an annual ambulance fee, although not everyone pays it.

The city of Martinsburg has its own ambulance service.

Those who pay the county authority's $25 fee do not pay extra if they need basic life support medical care, such as an ambulance ride to the hospital.

If advanced life support is required, the fee is currently $250 and can be mostly covered by insurance.

Those who do not pay the $25 fee are charged $100 for basic life support and the same $250 for advanced life support.

If the ambulance fee goes up to $40, advanced life support service would be included.

However, the rates for fee non-payers would rise - to $250 for basic life support service and to $500 for advanced life support service.

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