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Berkeley County Emergency Ambulance Authority reviews rules

May 03, 2001

Berkeley County Emergency Ambulance Authority reviews rules



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


A five-member committee of the Berkeley County Emergency Ambulance Authority is reviewing rules to govern stand-by ambulance coverage.

The rules were written by Authority President Kenneth Hite. The recommendations follow recent discussions by the Berkeley County Commission. No rules are currently in place.

"The authority, being the owner of the equipment, has a duty to know what's going on," Berkeley County Commission President Howard Strauss said. "And we have to do these things in an equal and fair manner."

Strauss said volunteer fire companies can't sign contracts for the services because they are non-profit groups. So they have been receiving donations, which he said "skirts around the issue."

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The issue of money still must be sorted out by the committee reviewing the draft, Hite said.

Under the draft proposal:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Fire companies have to notify the Berkeley County Emergency Ambulance Authority when they are providing stand-by coverage of an event.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Donations received by the fire company for an event go to the authority. The money will be distributed to the county volunteer fire departments.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Any fire company providing stand-by service at an event must have another full crew ready to go in case of emergency.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> No volunteer fire company can sign a contract guaranteeing stand-by ambulance services.

"I think this draft has some good features in it," said Strauss, who raised issues at a recent commission meeting that centered on how the money was being handled for the stand-by activities. He also questioned whether the county should be providing services to groups that are for-profit businesses.

The South Berkeley Volunteer Fire Department had been providing stand-by service for Mountaineer Raceway, although the racetrack has since contracted with a private business.

Strauss said he's also concerned that the rest of Berkeley County's residents are not short-changed for ambulance service because a unit is working stand-by at some event.

"This doesn't prohibit it, but at least it goes through the ambulance authority, which has a say in how its ambulances are managed," he said.

Hite said the stand-by service "is a long-established practice." Crews most often work for non-profit events such as football games, he said. South Berkeley had stopped providing service to Mountaineer even before Strauss rasied the issue at the county commission.

"We've been aware of other incidents" where for-profit groups such as a motocross races and a toughman competition used stand-by crews, Strauss said.

There's nothing wrong with it "because you have a large number of people at an event where accidents are likely to occur," he said.

But setting some rules on the practice will ensure that everybody knows what is going on, Strauss said.

"Some rescue chiefs are concerned they would lose control over a source of revenue," he said. He stressed, however, "if it's illegal, we'll stop."

Possible changes to the draft will be prepared for the May 24 meeting of the authority.

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