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Volunteer Fire Departments Pushing for Expanded Ohio County EMS Service

Photo by Joselyn King Ohio County Emergency Management Agency Director Lou Vargo, left, observes as Bethlehem Fire Department Chief Jacob Howard addresses county commissioners Monday night.

Volunteer fire departments in Ohio County are urging county commissioners to expand Ohio County EMS service hours immediately, and have county paramedics available to assist them 24-hours a day, 365 days a year.

Bethlehem Fire Department Chief Jacob Howard addressed county commissioners Monday night, and asked if expanding County EMS hours could be achieved as soon as logistics could be arranged.

At present, county paramedics are on duty each weekday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“It has worked out well during the (nearly) two years it has been in place,” Howard told commissioners. “Expanding it to 24 hours will give that service around the clock, instead of stopping at 6:30 p.m.

“It works well during the daytime, and I think it will be a help overnight. It is a much needed addition to the residents of Ohio County. They will be able to work well with the volunteer fire departments, as they already do.”

Bethlehem Fire Department Captain Jeff Johnson presented to commissioners a letter from the Ohio County Fire Chief’s Association asking the commissioners to expand EMS hours.

“They just wish you to do this as soon as possible,” Johnson said.

The chiefs are requesting a change to a round the clock schedule for paramedics, and that ambulance crews be made up of two paramedics.

They also want the Ohio County EMS to remain at its own location currently behind the Power Center at The Highlands, and for it not to be relocated or housed at any of the volunteer fire stations.

“Ohio County EMS needs to be at a neutral station to avoid any conflict with the volunteer departments,” Johnson said.

The service is working and functioning as planned, and no oversight committee is needed, he added.

The policy should remain that if a volunteer department responds, it will transport the patient to the hospital unless the situation would be detrimental to the patient.

A multi-year plan for the expanded service also should be considered, he said.

“It’s in the hopper. The budget is being worked out, and it’s going to happen,” Commission President Randy Wharton said.

County EMA Director Lou Vargo said he and County Administrator Randy Russell are working out budget details.

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