Moundsville First Responders Seek New Coverage

Citing long response times, Moundsville Fire Chief Noel Clarke on Tuesday urged city council to switch emergency medical service providers.

In November, Clarke had called on the city to explore alternatives in EMS coverage, in light of a rumor — since proven unfounded — that Tri-State EMS was planning to withdraw from the city without warning. During Tuesday’s policy committee meeting, Clarke renewed his call for the city instead to strike a contract with ESP Ambulance Services, an Oklahoma-based company whose West Virginia branch is centered out of Buckhannon County, with a local hub in Moundsville.

Councilwoman Ginger DeWitt recalled an occasion over the summer, when her father, recovering from surgery, was told EMS service would not be dispatched until the next shift change.

“When my dad needed emergency surgery in June and was at Reynolds (Memorial Hospital), they called an ambulance to transport him around 1 a.m.,” DeWitt said. “They said, ‘We’ll take him, but we’re not coming until 7 a.m.’ He needed emergency services — he had something rupture. So they had to call for a life flight, or he would have died.”

Clarke also recalled a house fire to which his crews responded in late December, noting Tri-State never appeared. One man from the scene was flown to the hospital, treated on scene by ESP personnel. He also recounted several instances in which response from the city’s fire crews was significantly faster than Tri-State’s, sometimes by 10-15 minutes or more.

“It’s hitting critical mass,” Clarke said. “I don’t want to see anyone vote no on this, because I see what’s going on in the real world, and somebody’s going to die. I don’t want to see this turn into graveyard politics.”

Clarke submitted an overview of his findings with ESP to the city manager and attorney to review before the next council meeting Jan. 17. Councilman David Wood asked fellow council members to delay making a decision, voicing his concern the city may have unanswered questions from a decision made in haste.

Councilman Allen Hendershot added the city couldn’t take any official action in a policy committee meeting.

EMS coverage had been a hot topic in the community since the closure of Cameron EMS in September, after which Tri-State and several other EMS services had taken up coverage in the county. Clarke said ESP was willing to operate in similarly remote areas of the county, such as Fish Creek.

Council members agreed to revisit the issue next week after considering the materials provided and communicating with county officials.