The following letter addressing emergency service issues was sent to Governor Justice and legislative leaders.
Dear Governor Justice & Legislative Leaders,
Pendleton County and many other counties are experiencing failures of our EMS Systems. Our volunteer organization has few active members and is struggling to serve. We applaud those who continue to serve; however, they need major help. Volunteerism is about dead. It is definitely on life support. We have days/times where a call for an ambulance has gone as long as almost six hours before an ambulance arrived at the call, as well as times when we have four ambulance calls at the same time. Our volunteers’ regular jobs take them out of county or to employers that do not allow them to depart work to run calls. Therefore, volunteers are not sitting around a station waiting to take a call. Paid personnel is the answer and funding to provide those paid personnel is a large part of the assistance that State government could provide.
Counties such as Pendleton have little financial resources to support EMS. The State of West Virginia owes its citizens professional, efficient, and functional law enforcement, fire and EMS services. At the State level, the Legislature and State government do a good job funding the state police and other statewide law enforcement entities, however, we have far too long relied on our hard-working volunteers to provide the vital fire and EMS services. Volunteer fire departments are limping along, however, EMS is CRASHING.
Before the budget surplus is given away or given back to the taxpayers, I remain hopeful that you have an eye on a REAL EMS solution for the 2023 Session. This issue is not going to wait much longer for several counties. A dedicated funding source needs to be identified and adopted this year. Major funds need to come to the county commissions, so that they can implement the fix. The cost of a new ambulance is nearing $300,000 and the wait can be two-years to receive one. Counties and volunteer organizations can no longer afford the equipment it takes to be EMS Responders. A real solution includes funds for ambulances, equipment and most importantly, PERSONNEL. The days of unpaid volunteers carrying this burden are near their end.
I respectfully suggest that the Legislature look at some form of statewide EMS organization, modeled after a mini-version of the State Police, DNR Police, Fire Marshal, Department of Forestry, etc. The purchasing power and budgeting power of the State needs to be called to duty for the protection of your citizens. The State enjoys buying power and should implement a program wherein the State purchases ambulances for county EMS organizations (this was done in the 1970s) and, taking it one step further, you could build the framework of a rural EMS department/organization wherein actual state employees are deployed to counties/regions where EMS has (or shortly will) fail. Absent that model of EMS solutions, you should consider disbursing MAJOR funds to the counties to assist them in applying a fix.
Regarding Senate Bill 105, I must respectfully state that I do not see an amusement tax as being able to raise adequate funds in counties such as Pendleton. Please do not view this as a method to completely fix the issue.
I look forward to hearing from you and I would welcome a personal meeting with each one of you as an effort to help do our part to fix this EMERGENCY issue. A quality meeting would include our county commission and leadership of our local volunteer EMS organization-Pendleton County Emergency Rescue.
Thank you for your service to the citizens.
Emergency Services Coordinator