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Panel debates proposal to delay hiring life support technicians

November 12, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

HAGERSTOWN -- A committee of the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association is asking the Washington County Commissioners to hold off for 45 days before acting on a proposal to hire advanced life support technicians to support the county's volunteer rescue companies.

The request was debated Thursday night during a meeting between the commissioners and ambulance providers at Hagerstown Community College's Kepler Theater.

Jon Snyder, chairman of the rescue association's emergency medical services committee, said the committee voted in favor of a 45-day delay Nov. 2 after the commissioners deadlocked on the plan to hire the advanced life support technicians.

Explaining the support for the 45-day delay, Snyder told the commissioners there might be some problems that have arisen that are "more pressing now."

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After the meeting, Snyder said ambulance calls have declined in the struggling economy. He also said some emergency medical companies are low on money and he wants to make sure the $560,000 that has been designated for the advanced life support technicians is used in the most-efficient way.

The commissioners approved funding for the technicians in 2007.

"A lot of things can happen in two years," Snyder said before about 75 people at the meeting.

On Oct. 27, the commissioners tied on a vote to finalize the hiring of nine advanced life support technicians.

Commissioner William J. Wivell, who voted no along with Commissioner Terry Baker, said he heard a majority of the county's ambulance companies had withdrawn their support for the plan.

Thursday's meeting, which lasted about two hours, was held to further discuss the issue with emergency medical service providers.

Adam Hopkins, deputy fire chief of the Longmeadow Volunteer Fire Co., expressed disappointment about the advanced life support technician plan not moving forward.

Hopkins said the situation amounted to people saying that they "don't want anyone else in my sandbox."

The 12 technicians proposed to be hired would staff three advanced life support "chase cars," which would be dispatched to help with certain critical-level calls, such as cardiac arrests, and to fill in when volunteer companies don't have adequate staff available.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval, who voted along with Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire on Oct. 27 to proceed with hiring the life support technicians, said he does not see the need for 45 more days to examine the issue.

Kercheval said he still supports Phase I of the life support technician plan.

"We shouldn't have stopped it two weeks ago," Kercheval said after Thursday's meeting.

County Administrator Gregory Murray said the request for the 45-day delay probably will be discussed at the commissioners' meeting Tuesday.

Aleshire said there are manpower needs in the emergency medical service program in the county and the commissioners have a responsibility to help provide the service.

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