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Ambulance Service Issue Discussed In Sistersville

By Staff | Jan 18, 2017

SISTERSVILLE — City council will meet Thursday to discuss its contract with the city’s volunteer fire department as it relates to an emerging ambulance service.

Council may consider possible revisions to the contract that could affect the ambulance service during a special meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.

“Council will deliberate an indemnity clause that would absolve the city from any liability that may be created by this ambulance service a move that will protect the city from potential legal claims,” Mayor Bill Rice said. “I’m not fighting the ambulance. I see the need from the ambulance service.”

When council met Jan. 10 to discuss the matter, tempers flared between the mayor, the Sistersville Volunteer Fire Department and organizers of the ambulance service. After more than an hour of debate, council agreed to hold a special meeting Jan. 12 to potentially make a decision about the contract.

However, the Jan. 12 was rescheduled to allow the city’s attorney more time to gather the necessary documents.

A new ambulance service has been licensed by the appropriate state authorities, but the county commission has yet to give its blessing and council has not decided whether it will revise the city’s contract with the fire department which would impact issues arising from the ambulance.

“Mayor Rice extended the meeting until this Thursday night and out of respect for him Fire Chief Jason Wayne and I elected not to start up the ambulance service until then. This Thursday night though, we will be available for transfers and any calls that come in directly to us,” said Deena Glover, EMS director.

Glover clarified some questions about the ambulance service’s role in the community. She said SVFD is incorporated while the ambulance service is its own entity a non-profit company. Glover said an ambulance service can be placed anywhere in the state without the permission of a mayor or the county commission. She said though an ambulance service does not need to be placed on the affected 911 system because it can have its own dispatch, it can utilize the existing 911 system as long as the appropriate authorities agree.

“You do not have to be placed in the 911 system,” Glover said. “You can have your own dispatch. People can call your dispatch instead of 911. Now of course we want to be in the 911 system. We want to be second dispatched in the Sistersville EMS territory.”

City Hall had a plan to acquire a new ambulance service, Rice said.

“We had a cost effective plan to get an ambulance from Sistersville General Hospital that would’ve cost the fire department and the city nothing and wouldn’t burden the taxpayers,” Rice said. “That would’ve been a joint effort between the city, the fire department and the SGH for an additional ambulance.

Also, that ambulance would’ve been covered by the hospital’s liability insurance. That’s what I was pursuing when they went out and got an ambulance without anyone knowing about it. The city feels like it is funding this operation through the new ambulance service’s use of the fire department.”

City Recorder Chad Edwards said the city has no money in the budget to support an additional ambulance service. He said the fire department’s was allocated about $71,000 for the 2016-17 fiscal year a figure that doesn’t take into account expenses that may arise from a new ambulance service.

Glover contends the ambulance service will be financially viable based on her extensive EMS experience in Middlebourne.

“Middlebourne EMS pays up to six people per call, the crew taking the run and the backup crew,” she said. They have two ambulances and we will only have one. They pay their own bills such as a water bill. We are only paying two people. We are in the fire dept. I believe it will help the fire department with bills.”