By: Jennifer Britt
The Parsons Advocate
The Tucker County Ambulance Authority is set on a purposeful course to provide the residents of Tucker County with information needed to help them decide which way to vote for the proposed access levy tax on the November ballot. The authority’s goals are for the excess levy to pass to enable stable funding, revamp and modernize the organization to provided efficient and timely EMS service, and get outside objective input.
The Authority recently hosted an informational meeting at the St. George Medical Clinic Pavilion. During this meeting Ambulance Authority board member Lenora “Nora” Howell talked to the audience members about the near-term donation campaign. Donations were requested to help make up for the 2022-2023 budget shortfall. In September mailers were sent out to all Tucker County mailing addresses while other cards were left at various locations across the county such as banks, the visitors bureau, Timberline Mountain, other businesses, and the libraries. As of October 14, there have been $16,815 in funds received in the form of donations. Mayors, town councils, and business owners have also been asked to support the proposed levy tax.
TCAA President Dennis Filler advised the audience that the authority had obtained outside assistance from the West Virginia EMS Advisory Council.
The summary from the EMSAC report reads as follows, “The TCAA has a long and storied history of excellent community service. Clearly the clinicians who have and continue to care for patients are deeply committed to their practice. Additionally, TCAA leaders have been extremely good resource stewards.
Through discussions with stakeholders, it is clear to the BAT (Business Assistance Team) that the financial stability of the organization is, at very best, tenuous. Significant change and bold moves are required to allow for the unimpeded delivery of emergency services. The system is increasingly unstable on many levels and requires attention. The BAT believes there is not a single solution, to position the service for the future a multi-faceted approach is required. Thus, our approach to this consultancy engagement has been to offer multiple options regarding governance, operations, funding, and external relations. While finance remains the present, overriding needs, the approach taken in preparation of this report is to allow stakeholders flexibility to mix and match solutions based on local needs and evolving challenges.
In this summary the BAT must be clear; maintenance of the status quo in terms of supplemental financial support positions the service for deep failure, putting critical emergency services at risk. Regardless of the outcome of the November 2022 levy election, supplemental funding is required for 2023. Should the levy fail, supplemental appropriations will be required for future years. Stakeholders must plan now for that potential eventuality.
Within a quasi-governmental organization like the TCAA, change is difficult. Unintended layers exist and there is a tendency for some stakeholders to accept a current state as completely acceptable. Additionally, fear develops within others that service delivery may suffer additional deterioration. These reactions are normal. All stakeholders come to planning meetings with different ideas, and different concerns. Collectively you are urged to stay focused on immediate, shortterm needs while simultaneously planning for that which comes next.
The BAT asks operational leaders, TCAA members and governmental officials alike to step back and imagine the future. A future where a community is guaranteed a paramedic unit response within an acceptable response time for rural communities. A future where advanced life support coverage is restored. A future where an established funding stream is present and a future where the organization knows where it is headed in coming years. Please imagine that future and celebrate those varied accomplishments which lead you there.”
This full report can be found on the Tucker County Commission website under County Government tab and then the TCAA link.
Filler also spoke on the report given by the West Virginia Office of EMS and how the report emphasized on building a community and government shared vision and support for EMS. Filler said, “It takes everyone working together to deliver the service.”
Filler then updated on the status of unavailable state funding and says, “The other thing folks thought that WVOEMS would bring to the table was state level resources and it was made very clear that there is no magic cure available at the state for West Virginia EMS.
At the moment right now, there is ten million dollars that the governor has put out there and that is going towards training. Which is encouraging us to use the West Virginia training programs for staff development, future EMS certifications and that is ongoing in just about all of the 55 counties to include here in Tucker County.”
The authority has goals to make internal improvements that include revamping and modernizing several keys areas that have been a concern in the past. Accounting has been a major concern to residents and the authority has been working to mend that by using an outside accountant and tracking financial metrics. The authority is looking for ways to improve upon the billing and collections processes. Grants for equipment upgrades are being applied for and received.
The authority board members have been working collectively as a group but also spilt into subcommunities to review and update the EMS personnel, policies, and practices manuals as well as organizational performance metrics and standards. Data analysis and information sharing are among the top priorities. Then there is the plan for the future to include a non-emergency transport service to bring additional revenue.
All meetings held by the TCAA to discuss the levy and include audience comments and questions can be viewed by video on the Tucker County Commission Facebook page. The next TCAA excess levy tax information meeting will be held October 25 at the Davis Fire Hall located at 610 William Ave, Davis, the meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. and be available on Facebook live.