(07/27/2017)
By Bob Weaver

7-26-2017 UPDATE - The future of quick access ambulance service will likely become a real challenge for the Calhoun Commission, with county citizens likely expecting the service without increased taxes.

Commission President Chip Westfall said, "The commission is looking at all options to provide the best ambulance service possible with the money that is available."

Since Minnie Hamilton Health System has indicated they will be providing stop-gap services until a new provider is found, the hopes of maintaining 24-hour crews and ambulances remains uncertain.

Commissioner Kevin Helmick said, "The levy money was reduced by $40,000 at MHHS CEO Steve Whited's request to the county commission, opting to give that portion to the the prosecuting attorney for a full-time salary. Whited said Minnie Hamilton didn't need it because they would reimbursed at a much higher rate."

Unfortunately, MHHS and other rural hospitals were denied the higher rate of reimbursement.

"From talking to other commissioners and EMS directors it is going to be tough to maintain the current level of service with the amount of money we have available," said Westfall.

It is not likely that county voters would pass a new Emergency Services Levy to provide adequate service, although the cost to taxpayers is relatively low.

MINNIE HAMILTON 'TRYING TO FIGURE OUT' ESP AMBULANCE DEPARTURE - CEO Whited Cannot Take Back Service For Extended Period

7-25-2017 By Bob Weaver

Minnie Hamilton Heath System CEO says, "We are still in the process of trying to figure all of this out," referring to ESP Ambulance pulling service from Calhoun.

MHHS had sub-contracted with ESP to provide ambulance service. "It does not look as though they plan to honor the 90 day out clause, but we are still working on this," said Whited.

Whited said he was not sure of the effective date of the ESP departure.

With the service essentially going back to MMHS, Whited indicated the future of the service is uncertain.

"We are planning, making arrangements to take the service back on if necessary. We will take on providing the service, but will try and transition this out through other opportunities. We have meetings set up for other possible solutions," he said.

"We cannot take this back on for an extended amount of time (more than six months) under current reimbursements."

The cost of providing ambulance service far exceeds the income generated, including funding subsidized from the county taxpayer Emergency Services Levy.

ESP says it is losing $35,000 monthly.

"My opinion is that the levy needs to be tripled, but this is highly unlikely. Service levels (staffing) and the volume levels dropping has been the major issue. Calhoun is a relatively large county to cover," Whited said.

Whited says he hopes to know more in the next few days after ESP communicates with him and "we work up a plan of action."

The Calhoun Commission had designated MHHS as the ambulance provider after Calhoun Emergency Ambulance Service defuncted, MHHS saying at that time they could be reimbursed at a much higher rate as a rural hospital.

That higher rate did not happen.

ESP AMBULANCE PULLING OUT OF COUNTY

7/23/2017 - A private ambulance service that was contracted by Minnie Hamilton Health System has advised they are pulling their operations from Calhoun.

ESP, which has services in several West Virginia counties, can no longer sustain their local operation, according to Julie Sears, Calhoun OES/911 Director.

Sears said residents are assured that a continuity of service will be made, with Minnie Hamilton Health System re-assuming the operation.

Sources told the Herald that ESP was leaving the county Monday, but that could not be confirmed.

Minnie Hamilton Health System will regain control of ambulances they leased to ESP.

Calhoun Commission President Chip Westfall said seeing that ambulance service is provided to the county has always been a major priority.

Ambulance service in rural counties has become a significant financial liability.

ESP's focus was on transports, which are financially productive, with sources saying that 911 or emergency services are not a money maker.

More to follow...


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