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Hospital radio center said closing

February 08, 2002

Hospital radio center said closing



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A week from today, City Hospital plans to shut down the radio system it uses to communicate with ambulance crews and have a hospital in Morgantown take over the responsibilities, a county ambulance official told the Berkeley County Commissioners Thursday night.

Although Gary Collis said he was not worried that the changeover will affect the quality of medical care, he said he was concerned whether Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown would be able to handle all the calls from Berkeley County.

In addition to calls in the Morgantown area, Ruby Memorial handles ambulance radio communications for other regions, such as the Wheeling area, said Collis, program manager of the Berkeley County Emergency Ambulance Authority.

"Is the staff there? We're talking about a lot of calls," said Collis.

Berkeley County has roughly 7,500 to 8,500 calls a year, Collis said.

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Under the current arrangement, the state provides the equipment to operate the radio system at City Hospital and the hospital provides the staff to operate it, said Collis.

City Hospital apparently does not have the staffing to run the system, which costs the hospital about $150,000 a year, said Collis.

City Hospital wants to pay Ruby Memorial to take over the responsibilities, said Collis.

Berkeley County Commissioner Robert L. Burkhart said there is a "deep concern" among the commissioners about the shutdown of the radio center.

"Does the hospital board know this?" said Burkhart.

"I assume," said Collis.

Burkhart said he has found that on some occasions, not all administrators at the hospital are aware of changes at the facility.

City Hospital officials were unable to be reached for comment Thursday night.

Collis said he was concerned about radio communications backing up at Ruby Memorial Hospital. If the Morgantown hospital were taking a high amount of calls at one time, Collis said he wondered whether local ambulance crews would be forced to wait for instructions from paramedics.

Because ambulances can sometimes get to City Hospital within a matter of minutes, the ambulance could arrive at the hospital before the instructions are dispatched, Collis said.

When an ambulance picks up a patient, the ambulance crew contacts a paramedic at City Hospital to notify them of the patient's injury or complication, said Collis.

Based on that information, the paramedic determines what type of medicine should be administered to the patient, or other procedures, said Collis.

The commissioners and Collis discussed the possibility of transferring the radio service to a closer hospital, such as Jefferson Memorial Hospital.

The radio service cannot be transferred to a hospital like Washington County Hospital because radio procedures are different from state to state, Collis said.

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