Thirteen employees of Clay County EMS have gotten the ax and two sub-stations, one at Lizemore and the other at Big Otter have been closed. Clay County Commissioner Jimmy Sams said "We don't have the money to pull the ambulance service out. We've got to go with the cuts."

Local dispatching will continue until January 10, but a "drop-dead" closing date is expected shortly thereafter. Another special meeting to address the critical problem is set for December 26.

A number of quality of care issues have surfaced, not the least being the county does not have an emergency services medical director.

The Clay ambulance service has tried to operate on $25 subscriptions, with few people paying the fee. The current budget of $500,000 must be cut in half before the service can continue in any form.

The service has often provided transports to and from physician's offices and clinics from the mountainous area for invalid and needy residents. A private-for-profit ambulance company may be contracted to provide service to the county if the public service closes.

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