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Ohio County EMS Completes First Six Months of Operation

Ohio County EMS paramedics Anthony McDaniel, left, and Robbie Geisel stand with the county’s ambulance outside the City-County Building in Wheeling.

WHEELING — The role of the new Ohio County EMS is to assist the county’s volunteer fire departments, and now the county paramedics often are first at the scene when there is a medical call.

The paid county EMS started operation on Jan. 2. Between that time and June 30, county paramedics responded to nearly 300 calls, according to Ohio County Commission President Tim McCormick.

“Things are going well,” he said. “When a volunteer (department) gets toned out, our guys get toned out also. We are in addition to the volunteer fire departments. We are not in place of them.

“When they get there, if the volunteers have the situation under control, they talk to each other. Our guys back off, and that is the end of the story.”

The Ohio County EMS responded to 299 calls during its first six months of operation, McCormick said. Of those calls, county paramedics were asked to assist 161 times, and transported patients on 125 occasions, he said.

“There were 13 calls when volunteers didn’t have a paramedic on site, and our paramedic went to the hospital with the volunteers,” McCormick said.

“The word we are getting from volunteer departments is they are very happy with what is happening. Early on there was skepticism — they were afraid we were taking over. We are not.”

The concern of the volunteer departments was that they would lose out on collecting insurance reimbursement for the patients they transport.

“But if the volunteer department takes someone to the hospital, the insurance pays the volunteer department,” McCormick said. “If we take them, our group gets the insurance payment.”

Ohio County is paying five full-time paramedics to serve with the EMS, as well as another five part-time paramedics. The county’s EMS is housed at the county garage behind the Power Center area at The Highlands.

Hours of operation are from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day when volunteer emergency responders typically are working, and when it may take extra time for a unit to arrive at the scene of an emergency call.

The paid county paramedics most often arrive first and stabilize the situation, according to McCormick. He expects the county emergency services could be extended to a 24-hour a day operation in the future.

“The ambulance answers anywhere in the county,” McCormick said. “You don’t have to wait for volunteers to come from work. There’s a rapid response, and a quick arrival to the situation.”

There are seven volunteer fire departments that offer ambulance service in the county, including those in Bethlehem, Stone Church, Valley Grove, Triadelphia, West Liberty, Mozart and Clearview.

Part of the agreement the county has with the volunteer departments is that the county offer paramedic training to any of their EMTs who may want it. While they receive training they ride with the county ambulance crew.

“Once they become a paramedic, they go back to their group and it makes the volunteer departments stronger,” McCormick said.

Bob Fowler, assistant chief with the West Liberty Volunteer Fire department, said the county ambulance service has “been a great asset to the county.”

“There was not a great deal of negativity anywhere about it,” he said. “There was a situation where some of the departments were concerned about revenue loss. But I don’t know how that is possible if when a volunteer ambulance responds, the patient can be turned over to them at their choice.

“And if they don’t have a paramedic, the county paramedic will ride with them to hospital with no loss of revenue.”

Fowler said the county also “hired the cream of the crop” when it came to their paramedics.

“They are very knowledgeable and easy to work with,” he said. “Most are personal friends of mine. It is nice to know if we have a couple people going to a serious call, they have help coming. If a patient is critical, or if they are large, there is extra manpower. It’s a win-win situation for everybody.”

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