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Investigation underway into Va. EMS system’s multi-million-dollar budget deficit

Officials said the Office of Emergency Medical Services is dealing with the deficit due to years of budgeting beyond available resources


Photo/courtesy Greg Friese

By Sarah Roebuck

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Department of Health is conducting an internal investigation into the Office of Emergency Medical Services, according to WTVR.

VDH’s Chief Operating Officer, Christopher Lindsay, revealed in November that the OEMS, a division of VDH, is dealing with a multi-million-dollar deficit due to years of budgeting beyond available resources, WTVR reports. Lindsay also mentioned that an internal audit revealed overspending on contracts and a history of transferring funds from one source to another to address budget shortfalls, all happening with minimal or no supervision.

VDH has declined to comment on the details of the budget deficit, but Virginia State Police confirmed to WTVR that it was investigating allegations of financial irregularities involving the OEMS.

Due to a budget deficit in the last fiscal year, the OEMS had to call off its annual symposium, an event that typically provides crucial training for Virginia’s emergency workers, aiding them in meeting their ongoing education requirements.

During a November board meeting, State Health Commissioner Dr. Karen Shelton expressed that the present budget of the OEMS does not correspond with its revenues and restructuring changes are necessary.

At the same meeting, she was unable to provide board members with a timeline for when the 11 regional EMS councils of the state would receive funding from the state to cover bills and staff salaries.

This “poses a serious threat to the existence of our councils,” Tracey McLaurin, with the Regional EMS Council Executive Directors, told the board and the commissioner. “We weren’t made aware until August that anything was going on. We are on the verge of financial collapse.”

“We work from a contract, we are a contractor for the Office of EMS,” McLaurin said. “When we do work we expect to get paid for the work we are completing.”

At the November meeting, the EMS Advisory Board unanimously approved a motion asking VDH to prioritize the immediate disbursement of overdue payments to the councils for contractual obligations that have already been provided and completed.