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Nikki Dotson Merritt: Efficient emergency response is a necessity in entire county

August 8, 2018

Currently, Wayne County commissioners and emergency personnel are collaborating to put an excess levy on the November ballot that will pay for a countywide ambulance service.

The need for a countywide system was detailed in a study conducted by Marshall University and the Wayne County Office of Emergency Services.

The study concluded that EMS in its current form is working, but it’s fragile. It took a look at the existing EMS system and helped to determine whether it is fulfilling the obligation of the commission to provide an emergency ambulance response to everyone in Wayne County. Criteria for determining data, such as where stations should be, included call volume, call zones (where the calls occurred), transport times, time of day and response times.

If the levy makes it to the ballot this year, the next step would be for voters to decide whether a tax increase is acceptable. The proposed excess levy could total anywhere from $1.2 million to $1.8 million dollars, meaning around $80-90 extra a year for Wayne County residents.

If county voters decide to accept the levy, next would be developing a plan to streamline emergency response and care from the northern to southern end of the county.

This is a crucial need for the county as a whole, but especially the southern end which includes Genoa, Dunlow and Crum, to name a few.

While some departments have their own EMS staff, including Dunlow Fire and EMS, at times it can take anywhere from 10 minutes to over an hour to respond to a call due to location of trucks, location of calls and coverage. Many times if one department is already responding to a call, an alternative department will have to leave its coverage area to accept the “rollover” call.

Growing up in Radnor, a southern portion of the county, I remember often hearing things such as “we could make it there quicker ourselves” and “by the time they get here it could be too late.” There was always a sense of insecurity when it came to depending upon emergency personnel of any kind. This was not because of the professionalism or commitment of the workers - it was because of our proximity to emergency departments and the amount of coverage area in our local department jurisdictions.

According to the study, it was concluded that two additional stations and three 12-hour ambulances would be highly beneficial. The need for specialized skills, and how they will be provided, needs to be identified, as well as the need for special skills training and school programs. It was also concluded that the county EMS system needs a 10-year plan for growth.

This is crucial. Now as a 27-year-old, I remember thinking as a 10-, 15- and even 20-year old that an emergency could be far worse due to my hometown - and that’s not acceptable.

Wayne County not only needs to develop a sustainable plan for all departments, but increase trucks and coverage and streamline the system to allow for quick and efficient response. I believe voters should vote “yes” for an EMS excess levy in Wayne County. The location in which someone lives should not be a factor in a life or death situation.

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