W.Va. county officials: Ambulance service 'unable to function' due to volunteer shortage

Mountaineer Ambulance informed the Preston County Commission Tuesday that it may need to close its doors


Kathy Plum
The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va.

KINGWOOD, W.Va. — Mountaineer Ambulance is in danger of closing, Preston County Commissioners were told Tuesday.

If it does, it will be the second Preston County ambulance service to close. The first was Valley Ambulance in 2014. That leaves the county with six ambulance services: Bruceton, KAMP, Rowlesburg, Terra Alta, Tunnelton and Union.

Mountaineer serves southern Preston County.

The commission received a letter from Mountaineer Ambulance President Buck Jennings, explaining the squad’s problems finding adequate volunteers.

“It’s unable to function,” Commission President Samantha Stone explained. It asked the commission to assign another squad to temporarily cover for it. Mountaineer will update them in three months.

Preston Assistant Emergency Management/911 Director Justin Wolfe submitted a request for KAMP Ambulance’s service area to be extended to cover Mountaineer for the next three months.

“We’re not only seeing this in Preston County, we’re seeing this in different parts of the country as well,” Wolfe said. “You just don’t have the volunteerism that you had.”

Preston 911’s protocol is to page the ambulance service in the area where a 911 call originates, then go to the on call paid service. Recently they have not paged Mountaineer because it was unavailable.

Commissioners ultimately called for a countywide meeting of representatives of ambulance squads on Oct. 8.

“I believe we should also get in contact with Mon General Preston Memorial to see what kind of options there could be for some additional help temporarily,” Stone said.

KAMP, Terra Alta and Bruceton have paid squads, Wolfe noted. Rowlesburg recently put on a partial paid crew, but it will take a while for them to get financially secure because of the delay in insurance payments to EMS, he said.

Commissioner Dave Price said the amount of training required of EMS and firefighters is a factor. Time, not money, is the biggest problem, he said.

“We have kind of kicked the can down the road, and we are going to have to take hold of this issue and try to be more involved in managing it. Because somebody’s got to do it. And some of these paid crews are stretched,” Price said.

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©2020 The Dominion Post (Morgantown, W.Va.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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