By LUKE CREASY
WAYNE - The seemingly fragile state of emergency response services has been an area of concern for local officials and residents alike in Wayne County - the discussion primarily focusing on elevated and significantly variable response times county-wide. Recent data provided by Wayne County 911 confirms some of those concerns, painting a picture of an uneven workload for the counties six emergency response stations.
Each of the EMS and Fire Stations throughout the county have a specific area of responsibility (AOR) they are assigned to. In a perfect world, every call that surfaces with an AOR would be answered by whichever station lies within that region, however, recent data provided by Wayne County 911 officials shows that agencies in the northern end of the county are fielding higher call volumes as compared to the southern end, resulting in overall lack of coverage county-wide.
"If you look at it, our most rural agencies are in the south and they are having problems getting EMT's and medics. As a result, the northern agencies are having to cover their calls. The data verifies that Kenova, Ceredo, and Lavalette are covering far above the call volume in their respective districts," B.J. Willis, Wayne County Emergency Services Coordinator said.
The other three stations in the county are located in Prichard, Dunlow, and Wayne. Willis said that each station has at least one fully staffed, paid crew on location around the clock. In most cases, he says there are on-call crews available as additional help to each of the stations.
Willis tracked the number of call requesting ambulance service during a six month period from January 1, 2019 through June 30, 2019 and broke the findings down even further to see how many of those calls were answered by the station within that AOR, or if it was responded to by mutual aid.
Of the six stations, Wayne (1,052) received the most calls requesting ambulance service followed by Kenova (597), Ceredo (515), Lavalette (487), Prichard (486), and Dunlow (446).
With populations generally higher in the northern end of the county (Kenova, Ceredo, and Lavalette) it's not surprising to see that on average, they received more calls than the three stations in the southern end. However, the data further show that the three northern stations are answering more calls than are being received in their AOR.
Stations on the northern end each responded to more calls than were received in their AOR with Lavalette (+139) fielding the highest volume of mutual aid calls followed by Ceredo (+112), and Kenova (+58). These mutual aid calls were given, in large part, to other AORs in Wayne County, as evidenced by the data which shows that Dunlow received mutual aid on 26% of its calls, Wayne's number increases to nearly 30%, topped of by Prichard Fire and EMS which received mutual aid on more than half of it's total calls, responding to 240 while receiving mutual aid on 246.
There is no data to answer why those calls couldn't be answered to by the agency in that AOR, but it doesn't take much digging to find out just how short staffed the southern end of the county is.
"I don't like it. It makes me sick," Prichard Fire Chief Steven Robinson said. "Pretty much the biggest problem we run into is not having the man power around. We need people to step up and volunteer."
"The other side of it is that if my truck has to drive from Steptown to Cabell Huntington Hospital, then any call we get during that time automatically falls to mutual aid. I can't say that we're going to be able to field every call because it's impossible for us."
Robinson, who took over as Chief less than two months ago, is hoping that by making some simple changes in the way his operation in Prichard is run those numbers will improve the next time data is collected.
Willis said after looking at the data and trying to make sense of it, it confirms the findings of a Marshall University study that brought to light just how fragile the emergency response services are in Wayne County, particularly in the southern end.
The two-year study looked at the county as a whole and evaluated the need for an ambulance authority to be established in the county, which, in theory, would have created three additional EMS stations and created equal response times throughout Wayne County.
To try and establish this meant and added levee for county residents which appeared on the ballot in the November 2018 general election.
The levy, which was voted down in a November 2018 election, would have provided funding to streamline emergency response and care from the northern to southern end of the county. While some departments have their own EMS staff, at times it could take anywhere from 10 minutes to over an hour to respond to a call with the southern end of the county often seeing the longer waits.
Willis said that even though the attempt to create and collect money for an ambulance authority failed in the most recent election, he's encouraged to see other stations assist where needed to make sure the entire county is covered, adding that sometimes mutual aid is received from neighboring counties like Cabell and Mingo. The evaluation of EMS calls received and answered is part of an on-going study to collect data and improve emergency response services in Wayne County. Numbers are collected through a digital program, mapped out, and sorted manually into AORs.
Prichard EMS hiring positions while in critical state
PRICHARD Prichard EMS is looking to hire emergency medical technicians and certified drivers while in a critical state for help needed.
The positions are competitive pay for qualified personnel and include flexible hours.
Those interested should contact Steven Robinson 304-486-5051 or Mark Ross 304-617-1818 for further information and interview.