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Jul. 18, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

IRONTON -- The number of Lawrence County Emergency Medical Services ambulance runs for the first six months of the year are up more than 10 percent from the first half of 2012.

Earl "Buddy" Fry, director of the county ambulance district, said there have been 5,191 ambulance runs from Jan. 1 through June 30. During the same time last year, there were 4,869 ambulance runs.

Most of the ambulance runs, 28 percent, went to King's Daughters Medical Center in Ashland while the second highest run volume, 23 percent, were transported to St. Mary's Medical Center in Huntington.

The number of ambulance runs to St. Mary's Medical Campus in Ironton also is increasing and now represents 10 percent of the ambulance runs, Fry said Monday.

The medical campus in Ironton offers emergency care on a round-the-clock basis, but about three patients per day are transferred from there to other local Tri-State hospitals, Fry said. The medical campus isn't equipped for patients to stay overnight, so if the care requires 24 hours of observation, for example, the patient will have to be transferred.

The $18.5 million medical campus has been open a year, bringing emergency care back to the Ironton area for the first time since 2001, when River Valley Health Systems hospital in Ironton closed.

The bulk of the ambulance runs were covered by the Ironton station, which has two ambulances and two separate crews. The ambulance stations in South Point, Chesapeake, Rome Township and Aid all have one ambulance and one crew. The ambulance district has 84 mostly part-time employees, Fry said.

The crews work 24 hours on and 48 hours off.

"We continue meeting with King's Daughters, St. Mary's and Cabell Huntington on a regular basis to discuss topics of mutual concern and to review any concerns either organization may have," Fry said in a report to the Lawrence County Board of Commissioners.

Quarterly meetings are held with King's Daughters and St. Mary's to review cardiac, stroke and congestive heart failure runs, he said. "We're working together for the betterment of patient care," Fry said.

One big change the ambulance service has made in the past year is increasing the number of EKG leads on patients from 12 to 15, he said. "We have found several heart attacks with the extra leads," he said. The industry standard is 12, Fry said.

The increased ambulance runs this year increases the expenses of the county-operated ambulance service, he said. "More runs means we're using more gas, more medical supplies and more oxygen," Fry said.

The ambulance service has spent more than half its 2013 budget in the first six months, but that was due to ambulance payments, worker's compensation payments and EKG monitor payments, which aren't assessed in the second half of the year, he said.

The amount of money the ambulance service is receiving is slightly ahead of budget, Fry said. "If second-half run activity remains at the current level or increases, it is anticipated receivables will meet or exceed the amount budgeted for the year," he said.