In a unanimous vote on July 8, the Jefferson County Commission approved a plan to purchase 10 ambulances as part of the EMS reorganization project. As of July 21, the Commission has approved requisitions for 7 ambulances (including equipment) from local volunteer fire companies, for a total of $1.68 million. If the requisition amounts for the additional 3 ambulances are similar, the total amount allocated to ambulance and equipment purchase would be in the neighborhood of $2.5 million. The Commission has reserved a total of $5 million for the EMS reorganization project, with the funds coming from the $11.2 million in federal funds received by the County under the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act.
A Proposed Deployment Model
The July 8 meeting also featured a presentation by Bob Burner, Director of the County’s Emergency Services Administration (ESA). The map below shows a proposed deployment of 10 ambulances (4 of which would be used as spares) that was reviewed by the County Commission during this presentation. In this model, the County would operate 6 Advanced Life Support ambulances staffed during the day and 5 ALS ambulances staffed at night, operating from four existing stations — Citizens (Charles Town), Independent (Ranson), Friendship (Harpers Ferry), and Shepherdstown.
More Paid Staff
The proposed model assigns 3 more county personnel compared to the current system, which staffs 4 ALS and 1 Basic Life Support (BLS) ambulances during the day and 4 ALS ambulances at night. In the current system, the ambulances are owned by the volunteer companies and their volunteers are available to supplement the ESA staff with BLS ambulances, so it’s not a straightforward comparison between the current system and the proposed model.
Locations Still Up For Discussion
The geographic deployment included in the July 8 model would be a significant change, particularly for the areas of the county currently served by the Middleway and Blue Ridge stations. Burner noted that the July 8 model is preliminary and that the county needs to do additional analysis and continue to evaluate actual incident data before finalizing locations. He also noted that the individual volunteer organizations own the stations and the County will need to negotiate acceptable terms for leasing space for the ambulance operations.
The Chief of the Blue Ridge Mountain Volunteer company, Earl Cogle, was in the audience during the meeting and remarked afterwards that “the County will have to explain to the community why there is no staff on the mountain.” He also emphasized that his organization is continuing ahead with a planned renovation of its station house to upgrade the ambulance equipment and crew accommodations, and he is hopeful that the ESA will keep staffing at this station on the mountain.By Staff Contributor