Questioning the Levy
Recently, a few questions were posed to us regarding the EMS Levy which will appear on the ballot on Nov. 2. Being a community-minded newspaper staff, we set out to find the answers.
The following information was provided to us courtesy of Sistersville General Hospital CEO Brian Lowther:
Sistersville General Hospital would like to address the concerns regarding the EMS levy, which were posted on the Tyler Star News website. The original post is included below:
Before I vote yes or no on this issue, I have some concerns that I hope someone will address.
1) The Sistersville EMS crew is mostly people from the Parkersburg area that have not the first clue the difference between Hill Street in Sistersville and Hill Street in Friendly.
2) The Sistersville EMS crew usually is transporting someone to Wheeling or Parkersburg. That means there is a two hour window where either Middlebourne or New Martinsville is the backup. Paden City no longer has an EMS.
3) Is this levy going to be used to pay for equipment or is it for salaries for the employees?
1) We do employ staff members at Sistersville General EMS who reside outside of Tyler County. Paramedics and EMTs are specially trained, and it can often be very difficult to recruit individuals to fill these positions. The reality is there are very few certified Paramedics or EMTs living in Tyler County. The EMS Department at SGH has a total of 17 employees and approximately 42% are from the Parkersburg area. Nearly 30% are from Tyler County. Their average length of employment at SGH is 5 years. These years of service have given our Medics and EMTs time to learn the layout of our local communities. One of the first things we work with in training new employees is familiarization with our response area. We accomplish this through map training and actual “on the road” training. This training, accompanied by assistance from the Tyler County 911 Center and the 911 Mapping and Address System, allow us to respond in a timely manner to emergencies in our county. Regardless of where they live, the staff members at SGHEMS take pride in our commitment to serve the citizens of Tyler County.
Many times questions are raised about Sistersville squad transporting patients to larger hospitals. Yes, this does leave a gap in EMS coverage for Sistersville. First, let’s consider who are the patients being transported to larger facilities? They are almost exclusively citizens of Tyler County. They are all being transported to receive advanced services not available within Tyler County. Many times they are being transported because of a life-threatening situation. If SGHEMS were not there for these patients, who knows when they might be transported or who might transport them. Sistersville EMS provides interfacility transports only for patients from Sistersville General Hospital; we do not transport patients from facilities outside of Tyler County. The nearest squads that provide these types of transport services are in Marshall and Wood Counties. Using these squads, as opposed to SGHEMS, would cause extensive delays resulting in needless suffering and possibly death for some patients.
2) Recently we sought to address the issue of EMS coverage while SGHEMS is out of the county on transports. While we cannot afford to staff a second ambulance, we did find a solution to provide emergency assistance in these circumstances. In conjunction with Sistersville Volunteer Fire Department, we have established a Rapid Responder Program. Now, any time there is a medical emergency in SGHEMS’ response area and the squad is not available, Tyler County 911 Center dispatches the closest ambulance along with Rapid Responders from Sistersville VFD. These folks are certified Basic EMTs and/or First Responders. They respond from right here in town to medical emergencies and provide life-saving care until an ambulance arrives. We deeply appreciate the willingness of Sistersville VFD to partner with us in this effort; it will definitely save lives! The bottom line is we are a small county with limited resources. Sistersville General Hospital and SGHEMS work hard every day to provide the highest quality EMS to our county. We continually seek new and innovative approaches to providing the best service possible with the resources we have.
3) This year’s levy distribution nearly covered operating expenses of patient care supplies, fuel, maintenance, required state and federal complex billing system, and other operational expenses excluding any salaries and benefits. The remaining balance of operational expenses not covered by the levy are funded through revenues generated by EMS throughout the year.