Harrison EMS volunteers in short supply

CADIZ – Joyce Klingler spoke to Harrison County commissioners Wednesday as an agent of the Harrison County Concerned Citizens.

The watchdog group is concerned about citizen safety and the lack of EMS coverage in the village, she said. The shortage of volunteers has meant the village EMS service, which once boasted four squads, has been reduced to one active member and is unable to respond to local calls, she said.

Klingler said the concern of local citizens is that the EMS service is not adequate.

Klingler asked for assistance from the commissioners.

Doug Crabtree, president of Harrison County’s EMS Association, provided a chart and explained the commissioners had a contract with the county fireman’s association. “We have a duty to provide service throughout the county through that contract.”

He noted the county operates on a three-department callout for EMS service, with one primary and two backup departments. They charge $498 for a basic run, $587 for ALS 1 and $755 for ALS 2 callouts.

“The dollars collected are split 60/40 (between the) squad/county,” he said.

“As per 2013 there were 89 drug licensed EMTs in the county,” said Crabtree. “We did have an EMS meeting last night in Harrisville and I do know those numbers have changed.”

Currently Hopedale has a contract with Harrison County Hospital, as the village does not have a county ambulance at it station.

Crabtree added the village of New Athens has picked up the extra workload from Cadiz and the county has already added one squad to its department where they have the additional personnel to operate two squads.

Klingler asked if the unused Hopedale trick could be turned over to the hospital to provide an extra ambulance and Crabtree stated he thought since it had been purchased with public funds that would not be possible, even though the hospital operates as nonprofit.

Klingler argued that Ohio Revised Code does allow such transfers and that she would research the exact ordinance.

She added rumors have been floating through the community that the hospital is getting out of the EMS business and that will leave a large portion of the county population without adequate ambulance services.

“We are working very strongly at coming up with a solution to fix that,” Crabtree said.

“If one of your loved ones has a heart attack, are you going to call are you going to call someone who has someone ready to roll or someone who has to come from work or somewhere else,” Klingler asked.

She noted she has a respect for the volunteers and their sacrifices but questioned why there could not be a joint EMS organization encompassing the fireman’s association and the hospital.

“The problem is that it takes a lot of time and money to get certified,” Crabtree said, adding many volunteers are older and have retired, while younger EMTs have gone to different organizations often opting to work for the paid ambulance services.

“The county EMS association is fully aware of the situation in front of them,” replied Commissioner Don Bethel. “This county has been served by volunteers for decades and we all owe these volunteers a debt of gratitude and to the hospital also for filling that gap at times.”

Kevin Milligan, vice president of operations at Harrison Community Hospital, said their squads are able to cover Cadiz when New Athens is unavailable and had made 377 runs in the village and 147 to Hopedale to date this year.

“I know what fire departments mean to the community and this county cannot afford to be without the volunteers. They do more than just serve as first responders for EMS and fire. Allowing them to disband is just not an option,” Milligan said.

“We at the hospital find ourselves in a different position than we were in five years ago. The financial position of the hospital has changed, the leadership has changed and we want to make sure that we are around in five or 10 or 20 years to fill that role and that includes EMS service,” he said.

“We did make the conscious decision and commitment to fill that void, and as we see it there are four options we presented to Doug and the commissioners back in May. The first option was to sell the service to the county and turn over the operation to them. Number two we would ask for some type of subsidy as a partnership to the county, whether that be in cash or in equipment,” he said.

The third option is to scale back and not run emergency calls, but just transport service only, and the fourth option is to close EMS and contract out the transport at the hospital.

“We can no longer sustain the type of loss we are taking currently on our EMS service,” Milligan said. “It has never been the intent of the hospital to take over the EMS service. We are more than willing to look at a fifth option if someone presents another option.”

“We are not trying to use this as a tool or lever to put pressure on anybody.” Milligan assured. “We will not let anybody go without medical service. We are not just going to show up one day and close our doors because the patients and the citizens will pay the price for that. But we have got to aggressively move to a solution that i s adequate and acceptable to the commissioners, to the residents and the citizens of the county, to the fireman’s association, because they are vital to this.”

“We are not at a crisis, but we have a deadline and we have to come up with a solution by the end of the year to a very delicate situation,” Bethel said.

In other business, the commissioners tabled two Road-Use Management Agreements while the engineer’s office changes some of the wording in the contracts.

“The problem we have is with the sentence which states that we ‘prefer’ no open cuts. We need to change that to state no open cuts unless prior approval has been granted by the engineer.”

“I think that anybody that has to sign these road-use agreements ought to be made aware of any type of activity where they cross the road prior to,” said Commissioner Dale Norris. “The open cut option is an advantage to the company, which saves them up to five times the cost of under boring. It is really an advantage to them to have an open cut but it is not an advantage to the county to wait a year for them to repair that open cut.”

The RUMA with Ohio Gathering LLC was tabled until the language can be changed to clarify the process.

The second RUMA with Blue Racer Midstream LLC requested four miles of Deersville Ridge Road but had not been to the prosecutor’s office or signed by the company.

“We had a little issue with this last Thursday. The sheriff and myself, we shut them down because they did not have a road-use maintenance agreement,” said Norris. “I find it very hard for a company that has a road-use maintenance agreement on the west end of the county road coming from Tuscarawas County into Harrison County to county Road 8 and then for them to say that they did not know they needed a road-use maintenance agreement when they had one for 12 miles on the east end of county Road 2,” Norris stated. “So somebody on there end is not doing their homework.”

Norris added that in checking with the township trustees the company also lacks a RUMA with the township for the road they are wanting to access via the county road.

Crabtree informed the board the company is currently operating on the county road as a subcontractor through a modification with a RUMA already in place with Hess.