(12/21/2001)
Clay County's ambulance service is broke and may shut down. Dennis Nurkiewicz, head of the West Virginia EMS Technical Support Network and other officials met with the Clay Commission Wednesday to define the bad news. He said Clay County is trying to run three stations in the mountainous county, but just can't afford it.

The Clay Commission will decide on January 2 whether to continue, with a "drop dead" closing set for January 15. The $500,000 ambulance budget must be cut in half.

The Commission could contract with a private ambulance service to provide emergency care.

The Clay system relied on $25 household donations to help finance the system. "People don't pay for their ambulance service," said Nurkiewicz, who is evaluating the problems.

Clay County Commissioner Jimmy Sams said the service has provided rides to and from physician's offices and medical clinics for people who do not have transportation. He said that would have to stop. EMS Director Cookie Johnson said some patients have no other way to access health care.

Clay EMS is also concerned about quality of care issues, and restrictions could be placed on the service.

Nurkiewicz praised EMS workers who barely make above minimum wage, and the volunteers, all who deliver services under tough conditions.


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