As a nurse practitioner for 26 years, I have profound respect for first responders in Tucker County. Many have served in this role as selfless volunteers who leave the warmth and safety of their homes to respond in the dark of night and in bad weather to arrive at dangerous situations and rescue our citizens from emergencies. I want to add my voice of support for the ambulance fee because we cannot expect a system based heavily on the willing responses of volunteers to be sustainable and consistently available. These volunteers have other responsibilities and jobs and responding to any of these emergencies can result in an unpredictable time commitment.
Deep in the night on October 31, 1998, I received a phone call from a neighbor that her husband had slipped on wet steps outside, broken his leg badly and needed help. Their home was on the mountain next to our place, I found his right leg twisted in a very unnatural position indicating fracture of both the tibea and fibula bones. I called 911.
An hour later, I called 911 again and asked if the ambulance crew was lost. The operator replied that no crew was available because of the weather, the time of night and the “closeness to work day”. I called Chuck Dumire, a long-time volunteer firefighter. He arrived minutes later with his son Charley and a stretcher. We loaded our neighbor and drove to the ER for orthopedic surgery.
Another time, Denice Reese, (then Tucker County School Nurse) received a middle of the night call from her neighbor. He had extremely low blood pressure and abdominal pain, and called 911 immediately. After 30 minutes with an unstable patient, she called 911 again. She was told that it was too close to the work day to rally a squad. Denice transported him in her car to Davis Memorial Hospital where he was life flighted to Morgantown with an abdominal aortic aneurism.
Our Emergency services financial situation has been front page news for 24 years. How can we afford to pay staff, maintain ambulances and equipment necessary to meet state and federal standards?
There is talk about eliminating the $50 per household ambulance fee, with no other solution of how to maintain emergency services presented. We have provisions for low income households or those unable to pay to waive or reduce the fee. The fee was initiated to save our emergency services from destitution and collapse.
Our county has coal mines, gas wells, ski areas, rivers, charcoal plant, lumber mills, twisty roads and other ways a person can hurt themselves far from an emergency room. We support our emergency services because we have an obligation to care for each other. $50 per year is about $4/month, is a good deal for life-saving stabilization and transport services in our most frightening situations. Let’s stand united to support of a service that any of us could need.
Barbara Weaner, MSN, FNP