By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Bobby Phillips, treasurer for the Ambulance Authority, offered the balances of the general funds from December and January. In December, the balance began at $107,292.77 with $30,739.15 paid out and $11,490.84 received in deposits. The balance at the beginning of January for the general fund was $98,827.45 with $38,978.57 paid out, $80,792.95 received in deposits, with a remaining balance at the time of the meeting of $140,641.83. It was explained that the income the Ambulance Authority receives is derived from insurance billings for service (only approximately 33%), the EMS fees, up to $100,000 annually from the hotel and motel tax which is capped and controlled by state legislation, and the Tucker County Commission. Grants and gifts can also be received as income for this entity. Expenses include salaries and benefits, overhead expenses, medical equipment, ambulance and equipment maintenance, and other expenses.
Board Member Dennis Filler proposed a template for a financial spreadsheet that could be used to provide an overview of the financials of the Ambulance Authority Board. A model of the spreadsheet was handed out to the committee which would list the different activities the EMS received for any given month, income received in forms of accounts, county funds, ambulance fee draws, or grants and gifts, along with the different expenses broken down by station and usage. The document would also list any outstanding accounts payables, operating bank accounts to show total operating cash assets, and the escrow account totals. Commissioner Lowell Moore asked if the financial statement could be made public each month with Filler stating that was the intent and this template should offer a better understanding of the fund usage and assist in their efforts to be transparent. Board Member Diane Hinkle asked if the document could refrain from the use of acronyms to assist in clarity, which all agreed would be best.
David Sharp attended the meeting to share his concerns about EMS responding to a 911 call on behalf of his wife on December 25, 2020. He began by stating they wanted his wife to go to Clarksburg since that is where her doctor is, though he was informed by EMS they had to go to the nearest hospital. Sharp asked what the protocol was when Ambulance Authority Director Terry Silk responded EMS is instructed to go to the nearest hospital, which is Davis Memorial in Elkins or Garrett Memorial in Oakland, Md. Sharp asked if that was for all patients or if only in dire situations such as heart failure or a life-threatening occurrence. “Whatever the medic determines is the necessity,” replied Silk.
Scott Kennedy, Assistant Director, explained that once the patients arrive at the nearest hospital, they can then be stabilized and determined if they are needed to be transported to another facility. Sharp continued with listing his concerns claiming his wife’s vitals were not taken, she succumbed to bruising, was not given a blanket when requested, lack of identification by EMS, and because she was taken to Elkins, she was administered an antibiotic she was allergic to and became septic. “She’s still not in good shape,” Sharp said.
Dr. P.S. Martin, Medical Director for Tucker County EMS, thanked Sharp and respected his concerns for his wife and brought those to the attention of the board. He began by stating it was reported to him that Sharp’s wife did have a fever that day, which is why no blanket was offered in an attempt to lower her body temperature. Martin also explained that Tucker County only has two ambulances in the county and when one transports to facilities at a farther distance, it takes away from the remaining citizens that may need their assistance. “That’s one of the reasons for that process,” Martin said. As for the other concerns he shared, Martin assured him he would speak to the EMS to ensure that would be taken care of.
Steven Sponaugle, Tucker County Paramedic, was present on the call on Christmas Day, spoke stating he did identify himself and speak with the family in order to determine the location of the patient so they could administer prompt care. He proclaimed the issue has been mishandled from the beginning and was unhappy that the information was published in a recent issue of The Parsons Advocate. It was explained that information that is shared in a public meeting and open session is submissible for publication.
Pamela Knotts addressed the board about an incident that took place on November 18 when she was transporting her daughter by personal vehicle to the hospital. She recalled stopping several times en route because of her daughter getting sick and called 911 then drove to the nearest station, which was Station 2 in Davis. “They came out, I’m not familiar with the two personnel that came out to treat her, my opinion was they pretty much refused to take her,” said Knotts. “One you don’t need to tell me how much of a bill I’m going to have, you don’t need to tell me if I’m in pain, or I don’t look to be sick to you, you tell me that, that’s fine I’ll go elsewhere,” she continued, “I’ll just take her and go I don’t have time to sit here and argue with you.”
Knotts said she was very upset over the situation and contacted Sheila Marsh, EMS Director, to make her aware of the situation. She said it was very unprofessional, hateful, and rude how they were treated, especially when her daughter ended up staying in the hospital with heart issues due to her illness. Silk apologized to Knotts and assured they would be looking into it.
Commissioner Fred Davis was at the meeting and told the board he received a call recently with concerns regarding the ambulances being parked at the Country Roads Saloon to eat. Davis told the caller that he would bring it up to the Authority and allow them to handle it based on their protocol. Silk and Kennedy said it is a common location for EMS to pick up their to-go orders and it is not uncommon for them to be called to respond to an emergency at that location.
Davis added he heard a call out over the radios at 3 a.m. for a third call for an ambulance to go out. “On the third call, it woke me up and aggravated me so I called 911 and said ‘Where’s the ambulances?’, and they said ‘They’re both in the station’.” He asked why they weren’t responding to the call out and the dispatcher responded, “I don’t have a clue.”
Angie Mitchell, another EMT for the county, wished to speak on behalf of the ambulance being called out three times before responding. “What they failed to tell you is when they paged, they just say a road name, a lot of these towns have the same roads or I’m not familiar with some of the road names,” she began. “What they didn’t tell you was before the second page went out, I was on the phone with them asking them where this call was.” This particular call was for a patient transport from the hospital back to Cortland Acres, which is typically handled by Station 1. After speaking with dispatch, it was determined that they would be responding to the call and on the way to the truck, “They paged it again knowing a crew was responding.”
On a positive note, Davis received praises and gratitude from the family of a family member in Davis whose loved one recently encountered a stroke. “They were very, very happy with the EMS, it isn’t all about bad stuff the EMS does good stuff, too,” said Davis. Silk stated, “It seems the Commissioners get the complaints more so than any member of this board, it would be a good policy for the Commissioners if they would contact either Sheila (Marsh), myself, or Dr. Martin when there’s a complaint that way we can address it quickly and it won’t be out in the public when we first hear about it.”
Silk read the mission statement of the Tucker County Emergency Medical Services and how for the last year, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, 24 hour care has been maintained thanks to the EMS Fee Ordinance. He expressed sincere appreciation for the pilot project led by Dr. P.S. Martin that brings physicians into the field alongside the first responders to continue to provide quality care to those in need.
Kennedy gave a brief report about the accident of one of the ambulances due to road conditions. His personal opinion was the unit is probably not salvageable, however they are awaiting news from the insurance company. A new policy is being developed relating to accidents happening while on their shift and how they will be handled.
The bi-law revisions are underway and will be discussed again at the next meeting after more time has been taken for review. The Tucker County Ambulance Authority will meet again on Wednesday, February 17 at 5 p.m. at the Tucker County Courthouse Courtroom.