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License sets an EMS crisis on Blue Ridge

By Staff | Sep 2, 2011

The West Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services (OEMS) on Wednesday, Aug. 17, suspended the emergency medical services license of the Blue Ridge Mountain Volunteer Fire Department (BRVFD).

The action was taken because of a complaint that a person afiliated with BRVFD that was not certified to provide emergency medical services (EMS) had acted as the primary care provider during transport of a trauma patient from the scene of a motor vehicle crash. The patient was taken to a non-trauma hospital. Emergency room doctors at that hospital determined that the patient should have been taken to a trauma center. A person properly certified for EMS would have (or certainly should have) known that the patient ought to be taken to a trauma center.

An investigation into the incident has begun. Pending the outcome, here are the possibilities.

If the BRVFD is determined to be not at fault, the license will be lifted with no sanctions. If culpability is found, there are several possible penalties, depending upon the degree of culpability.

The suspension might be lifted immediately but the BRVFD placed on probation for some period of time. Rather than probation, a fine could be levied on the BRVFD. Or both a fine and probation could result. Should the BRVFD be found to be seriously culpable, the license could be revoked.

If the license is revoked, the BRVFD would have to take concrete steps to remedy the situation, then apply to have its EMS license restored. OEMS would then conduct a thorough examination of all of BRVFD’s operations to be satisfied that BRVFD meets all the criteria for EMS licensure. Once OEMS is so satisfied, the license would be restored. There is no specific timeframe for this procedure.

We should all hope that revocation of the EMS license is not the result of the investigation.

In the interim, the Jefferson County Commission decided that the Jefferson County Emergency Medical Services (JCEMS) will station an ambulance and two certified EMS personell at the county’s Public Safety Annex on WV Route 9 on the Blue Ridge. This decision resulted from discussions between County Commissioner Dale Manuel, Jefferson County EMS chief Doug Pittinger and me last week. The idea was suggested by Willis Nowell, a resident of the Blue Ridge area of our county and a dedicated advocate for the residents of the Blue Ridge.

The ambulance will be stationed there for 12 hours each 24 hour period. When the decision was made to station the ambulance there it was to be on station from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., I asked for a 16-hour period (6 a.m. to 8 p.m.) to cover both rush hours.

Commissioner Manuel said that the commission still hasn’t found the funds to cover the 12-hour period if it has to go for a few months (we don’t know how long this investigation wil take). So I suggested they consider breaking the shift into two short shifts, say 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. (or 5 a.m. to 9 a.m.) and 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Commissioner Manuel said he would look into that idea.

Breaking the shift in to two shorter ones would cover both rush hours. While a resident of the Blue Ridge might need medical assistance at anytime, the danger of serious automobile accidents is much greater during rush hour than at other times. This is particularly true on the old Route 9 on the Blue Ridge. That road was not built to handle the volume of traffic it gets during weekday rush hours.

Compunding this tragedy is the fact that the new four-lane Route 9 is just over a year from being completed. That road will be capable of handling the volume of rush hour traffic it will get and the accident rate will drop considerably.