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Smithsburg EMS blocked from using rescue vehicle

January 16, 2002

Smithsburg EMS blocked from using rescue vehicle



By SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

At the suggestion of an independent panel, the Washington County Commissioners decided unanimously Tuesday to block Smithsburg Emergency Medical Services from using its rescue vehicle for emergencies for up to nine months.

The break serves two purposes, said Joe Kroboth, the county's emergency services director, who presented the panel's report to the commissioners. The report was released Tuesday.

First, the break is a way to discipline the company for using the vehicle on rescue calls after being ordered by the commissioners not to do so, he said.

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Second, it gives the Smithsburg Volunteer Fire Co. a chance to apply for permission to provide rescue and extrication services in Smithsburg, something Smithsburg Emergency Medical Services wants to do.

The Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service would decide between the two candidates.

If the fire company does not apply, Smithsburg EMS will be selected to provide the service in Smithsburg, Kroboth said.

Fire Company Chief Ron Jeter, who attended the meeting, said the company had no comment. It was too early to say whether the company will apply to provide the service, he said.

Ambulance Chief Jason Sturm also said he had no comment.

The commissioners decided in April 2000 to bar Smithsburg EMS from operating its $300,000 rescue squad vehicle, saying it was duplicating service provided by the fire company, which has rescue equipment on one of its fire engines.

After that meeting, the association gave Smithsburg EMS permission to use the vehicle, but solely as an ambulance. A rescue squad vehicle carries rescue equipment such as the Jaws of Life, while an ambulance contains medical equipment with which to treat patients.

After the fire company reported that Smithsburg EMS was responding to both rescue and ambulance calls, the commissioners decided on Oct. 2, to send a letter warning the agency that if it continued to use the vehicle, the county might take action, including seeking a court injunction to prevent further operation of the unit.

In mid-October, the commissioners decided to let the company continue using its rescue squad vehicle for 60 days, pending a study by a three-member panel assembled by Kroboth. The panel is made up of three fire and rescue experts who live and work outside the county.

The commissioners expressed concern about citizen safety during the nine months but Kroboth said service should not be affected because the fire department and Community Rescue Service will answer calls in the area.

If the fire company is given the heavy-duty rescue work, Smithsburg EMS would have to find another use for its vehicle, he said.

The panel has said the vehicle should not be used for ambulance calls because there is inadequate room for effective treatment of patients. The company could decide to use the vehicle for another purpose, Kroboth said.

In the case of a disaster during the nine months, the association or Kroboth's department could authorize Smithsburg EMS to use its vehicle, Kroboth said.

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