Emergency medical responders, along with representatives from Broaddus Hospital and the Barbour County Office of Emergency Management, are expected to meet with county commissioners to deal with the confusion and criticism regarding how ambulances are dispatched.
Part of the problems have arisen in the wake of the director of the Belington Emergency Medical Squad telling employees not to provide services to the hospital. Joe Bolyard said he wanted to ensure the Belington EMS received its fair share of the calls.
"The dispatchers may have gotten tired of us telling them no, and maybe asked (Broaddus Hospital) to call," Bolyard said.
Susie Cvechko, the director of In-patient Services at the hospital, said OEM dispatchers have told the hospital staff to call the Belington squad when an ambulance from the Barbour County EMS is not available.
"If (Barbour County) doesn't come, we can't get them to go ahead and call Belington (EMS)," Cvechko said. "Barbour (Communications Center) has told my staff, 'You call them.' If Barbour County (EMS) doesn't have an (available ambulance) they should at least check with Belington."
The hospital's medical director said this territorial dispute between agencies could be jeopardizing the lives of local residents.
"I think it's wrong that an ambulance in the county refuses to take a transport because of a p-ing match between entities," Dr. Randall Turner said. "We have patients whose life (may be) in danger, that need to go somewhere, that's involved in a serious car accident, that need to be on an operating table. They can't get there because somebody's mad because they didn't get a first call."
Bolyard asked that the Belington EMS be called for every other transport. Barbour County Commissioner Tim McDaniel suggested that each emergency management service be utilized on specific days in lieu of Bolyard's request in order to prevent the confusion of operators.
Jeff Powelson, the chief executive officer of Broaddus Hospital, said there was a recent incident involving a patient needing to be transported from the hospital. He said a hospital representative called the Barbour County Office of Emergency Management to request that an ambulance be dispatched to the hospital. Powelson said the OEM called for the Barbour County EMS, but that the EMS could not send an ambulance at that time.
"Then they called Belington (EMS)," he said. "Belington, from my understanding, initially chose not to go and then agreed to take the patient, which we appreciate."
Powelson said there had been another incident in which the Belington EMS already was on the hospital property after transporting a patient. At that time, Powelson said there was a patient who was in need of a transport from the facility.
He said a hospital representative called the Barbour County OEM and was told that it would not allow Belington EMS to transport the patient.
"I don't understand why; that made no sense to me," Powelson said. "Our understanding is that we are to call the Com Center when we have a transport, and they will call whoever to find somebody and get back with us about whether they're going to take the transport or not. That's where we feel our role stops."
Powelson said he wasn't sure if there was a misunderstanding about that process.
"That's our goal, to get patients out of our ER in a timely manner," Powelson said, "and get them to where they need to be (so they can) be stabilized, transferred, treated or whatever."
Commissioner Phil Hart said he believes the problems could be resolved if Broaddus Hospital leaders could work out a plan in which they would directly contact the emergency squads. Hart said the county commission would arrange a meeting, also suggesting that a hospital representative call 911 instead of the non-emergency number for the OEM. Commission president Jedd Schola said that dialing 911 was a better way to keep track of what operator handles a call. Without dialing 911, Schola said there would be no record.
Not all parties were present at Thursday's meeting. The commissioners said they thought the Barbour County EMS had been notified of the meeting. The OEM staff was unavailable Thursday because of its participation in a regional disaster drill in Upshur County.
The commissioners also agreed to notify the OEM that Broaddus Hospital will begin dialing 911 as an alternative by April 1. The hospital will be notified if there is a change. Dialing 911 was a practice the hospital had previously used. Powleson said he was concerned with that idea, saying it could cause the operators to respond to a situation which may not be an emergency when another emergency occurs that should take priority.