WILLIAMSON – At a special meeting of the Mingo County Commission held Monday morning, representatives from the county’s primary and secondary ambulance services and representatives from Mingo County Emergency Management held a lengthy discussion with the commission concerning the possibility of adding a third provider to the 911 service list.
At the meeting, much discussion was given to the possibility of adding Southern EMS to the Mingo County 911 service dispatch list.
Currently, Stat and Elite ambulance services provide primary and secondary ambulance service for the county.
Doug Goolsby and Lorene Vance from the Mingo County office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management as well as Jason Smyth and Eddie Daughtery from Stat and Craig Blankenship and Laura Fox from Elite Care ambulance service were in attendance at the commission meeting.
Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith opened the discussion. “One of the things that we wanted to talk to you all about is that you have probably seen in the newspaper that we have had another agency that has approached the commission to be considered for the 911 call list. Both of you agencies know that is something this commission takes seriously with regard to due diligence investigation. For the record, under W.Va. code the duty to provide an ambulance service falls on the county commission of Mingo County as it does in each county within the state. Probably, 60 to 70 percent of all counties have a county ran ambulance service but they do that on an excess levy. An ambulance business, as both of these companies can tell you, is very expensive and Mingo County does not have the funds to be in the ambulance business and we are very fortunate and thankful that we have two private companies that conduct business in our county and provide our county these services of being our first emergency response to the 911 calls. What we wanted to do is talk to both of you and hear your pros and cons with regard to adding or not adding another company,” Smith stated.
“My personal thoughts, is that it is very limited to the amount of funds with the health care and Obama care and has probably greatly reduced the amount of reimbursement that you all receive. I am sure the cost of providing the service has not went down. I don’t want to add another company to the list if it is going to jeopardize the companies that we have on the list if they are providing adequate service to the county,” Smith continued.
Throughout the discussion, it was revealed that the county’s loss of residents has impacted the ambulance services in terms of reduced call volume as well as fewer people that have private insurance.
Jason Smyth from Stat ambulance service stated, “There is a reason ten plus years ago that we split the county. There aren’t enough calls for two competing services to be on top of each other. You add a third service it will make it worse.”
Lara Fox from the Elite ambulance service chimed in stating, “It really isn’t necessary. We already have mutual aid agreements. If we aren’t available, they can come in. It isn’t necessary to add them to the call list.”
The discussion between the representatives and commissioners continued. “I just don’t see the economics of adding them to the 911 list and dispatching them out of the Lenore area. I don’t think the calls are there to support a third company,” Smith stated.
Smyth explained that in the last 15 years, the county’s population has declined by 10 to 14 thousand. With the decline in the coal industry, many have left the state in search of employment. As a result, fewer people within the county have private insurance and higher insurance.
“We have to make a decision. It should give you comfort to know that we wanted your input before we had to vote on it,” Smith said to the representatives. “This issue will be discussed at the next regular commission meeting,” Smith concluded.
The next meeting of the Mingo County Commission has been scheduled for Wednesday, December 7.
(Courtney Harrison is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242 ext. 2279.)