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Ambulance crews struggling in Jefferson Co.

May 22, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Ambulance crews in Jefferson County are being burdened with increased calls, and sometimes it takes up to 20 minutes or more for ambulances to reach patients, a county ambulance official said.

Ed Smith, operations manager for the Jefferson County Ambulance Authority, talked about the trends Thursday after the Jefferson County Commission decided recently not to give the authority all the money it was requesting in the upcoming budget to increase ambulance services.

The authority asked for $336,764 in increased funding but the commission gave the agency an additional $104,933.

Jefferson County Commission member Jim Surkamp on Thursday attempted to give the authority roughly $231,000 to make up the difference, but the commission did not support the effort.

The ambulance authority runs a paid ambulance staff that was formed after volunteer crews said they were having trouble responding to a growing number of calls in the county.

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The toughest time was during the day, when many volunteers are holding down jobs, officials said.

The paid ambulance service mostly handles calls during the day, and response times greatly improved after the paid staff was blended with volunteer ambulance service in the county, officials said.

Calls at night have increased about 15 percent and sometimes it is difficult for volunteer squads to respond to them, Smith said.

Smith said he also wants to add a couple of paramedics for the Shepherdstown, W.Va., area because response times to that town have been running up to about 20 minutes in some cases during the day.

When Surkamp made a motion to give the ambulance authority all of the increased funding for which it asked, he said he will "not have a death on my conscience."

When commission members would not support Surkamp's proposal, Surkamp said, "You've just endorsed 20-minute response times in Shepherdstown."

Commission members talked about implementing an ambulance fee which county residents would have to pay to help support the paid ambulance service.

Commission member Dale Manuel said he would like to see cities help fund the ambulance service.

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