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Va. county adds 6 full-time EMTs

The vote was unanimous, and it will increase the county’s around the clock medic units from two to three; funding will come, in part, from a more aggressive bill collection policy

The News & Advance

LYNCHBURG, Va. — Six full-time Campbell County emergency medical services employees will be added to the county’s public safety staff after a unanimous vote by the Board of Supervisors at Tuesday’s meeting.

The request was made by Public Safety Director Tracy Fairchild in an effort to improve response times.

These positions bring EMS staff up to 25 full-time employees and one part-time employee, which will increase the county’s around the clock medic units from two to three. A medic unit also is staffed by career EMS from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“We need this group of people,” Concord District Supervisor Eddie Gunter said.

The new positions will cost $300,000 and will be paid for using the EMS revenue recovery program.

Fairchild’s request also included purchasing another ambulance using a Rescue Squad Assistance Program grant and matching funds from the county’s capital improvement plan.

Although Timberlake District Supervisor Mike Rousseau voted in favor of the requests, he expressed concerns about paying for another ambulance when the county already has 26.

Sunburst District Supervisor Steven Shockley said most of those are owned by the county’s four volunteer rescue squads and so the county has no authority over how they can be used.

The supervisors also approved lowering the EMS fees and implementing stricter billing practices to help cover the cost of the added personnel. The county will begin an educational campaign on the new rates, bill collection process and cheaper transportation methods for non-serious medical issues.

Under the new hard bill collecting method, which begins July 1, a bill will be sent three times before it is forwarded to a collection agency. The county currently uses a soft-billing method, which means a bill is sent three times and no further action is taken if it remains unpaid, Fairchild said.

“There are people just not paying it and we’re trying to change that,” Shockley said.

Since the hard billing method is expected to collect 10 to 12 percent more, the supervisors lowered rates to better reflect surrounding localities’ rates.

Effective immediately, the new rates are: Basic Life Support, $425; Advanced Life Support 1, $525; Advanced Life Support 2, $700; and ground transport, $9.45 per mile.

Basic Life Support involves non-invasive procedures and techniques, including performing CPR, splinting, restraining, immobilizing and administering oxygen.

Advanced Life Support 1 includes invasive procedures and techniques, such as advanced airway management, IVs, defibrillation, chest compressions, EKG monitoring and anti-shock therapy.

Advanced Life Support 2 involves three or more advanced life support procedures and can include manual defibrillation, endotracheal intubation, central venous line, cardiac pacing, chest decompressions and surgical airways.

In other business, the supervisors authorized bidding the repair project for the Rustburg Rescue Building in a 6-1 vote, with Rousseau opposing. The supervisors authorized up to $75,000 for the project.

County Administrator David Laurrell said the county is providing the money because the building is used to house the county’s career EMS more than it is used by the volunteer rescue squad, which owns the building. He said the rescue squad also is contributing, but receives county money as well.

He said the county is helping out volunteer organizations as needed to continue providing services. Volunteer organizations, especially in public safety, have experienced difficulties recently with fewer members and added burdens. The partnership allows the county to house the career EMS for free.

“I think it’s money well spent if we want to go ahead and do that,” Laurrell said.

Built in the 1980s, the squad has had minimal maintenance work, said Deputy County Administrator Clif Tweedy. The roof will be repaired and interior work will include reinstalling one bathroom, kitchen improvements, corrective grading to prevent future water damage and dividing the old meeting room into an office and storage space.

Shockley said he understood the need for the repairs but said he was concerned the building would end up in the same condition if it was not tended to regularly and he didn’t want to throw away $75,000.

“Rustburg is pivotal to our response times in the county being centrally located and it is our responsibility, I believe, to provide the fastest response times possible,” Shockley said.

Tweedy said a few thousand dollars would be set aside annually to cover regular maintenance.

In other business, the supervisors unanimously approved Brookneal District Supervisor J.D. Puckett as chairman and Spring Hill District Supervisor James Borland as vice-chairman.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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