Vienna raises concerns regarding ambulance services

PARKERSBURG – Representatives from the city of Vienna met with Wood County commissioners Monday over concerns about countywide ambulance services.

“We aren’t here to complain or step on anyone’s toes but there is a situation we would like to bring to your attention,” Vienna Mayor Randy Rapp said.

Vienna Fire Chief Steve Scholl said there was a callout around 9 a.m. Sept. 2 for an “unresponsive” woman on 59th Street in Vienna who needed an ambulance.

“The ambulance that was coming was out of Wirt County. Vienna Fire Department is not a medical responder, but they toned us out to see if there was anything we could do, like the location of the house. I don’t know the exact time it took to get there, but this lady was just holding on by a thread,” Scholl said.

“Our main concern is if the ambulance is going to be that far away. It’s my understanding the Vienna ambulance was out of service, going to a routine transfer in Coolville. If the ambulances are being taken out of service from emergency calls and being put on for routine transfers, and the ambulance has to come from some far away place, we feel there needs to be another carrier brought in. All we needed was an ambulance to get her to the hospital,” Scholl said.

The Parkersburg Fire Department also responded, Scholl said.

The woman was taken to the hospital by the Parkersburg Fire Department, according to officials.

She died. Officials declined to release further details of the incident.

“If ambulances are going to be taken out for routine transfers, there needs to be backup for emergency calls,” Scholl said. “Waiting for an ambulance from Wirt County is basically unacceptable when you’re lying there dying.”

Commissioner Steve Gainer suggested the Wood County Firefighters Association meet with 911 to develop protocols to prioritize calls.

“Sometimes they may be tied up on less life-threatening calls, and this situation might never happen again, but we need to be prepared.” said Gainer, a former fire chief. “I’ve been involved with the fire service since 1971, and I don’t remember this happening in the past.”

“We don’t have the capability to be first responders, but the people in Vienna expect if there’s an emergency, that there will be an ambulance somewhere to take them to the hospital. Sitting in my chair and having him (indicating the fire chief) call me up and he’s visibly shaking because he couldn’t help these people that obviously need help,” Rapp said.

“It’s an unacceptable situation. I understand you can’t schedule emergencies, but we have life or death situations and there needs to be another ambulance that needs to be there,” Rapp said.

Commission President Wayne Dunn said there were two options: getting more ambulances or screening “to make better use of what we have.”

“I’d like to have the 911 advisory committee dig into these numbers and see what the situation is,” Commissioner Blair Couch.

Carl Sizemore, assistant 911 director, told the commission there is an average of 1,100 callouts a month for ambulance services.

“We do have emergency medical dispatch protocol that the dispatchers follow; that’s just medical and other pertinent information that might be needed. But if there is a request from a caller for an ambulance, we have to call out an ambulance,” Sizemore said. “We have to send them.”

Duane Weekley, with St. Joseph’s Ambulance Service, said the service is called out on a daily basis on “non life-threatening calls that don’t require transport.”

“On any given day, we have seven crews; some days we get a lot of calls; other days there may be none; it’s not possible to schedule emergency calls,” Weekley said.

“It sounds like it’s a critical problem. I would request the 911 committee do a thorough review of policies and procedures to make sure nothing like this ever happens again. I think we need to caution the ambulance services; 10 times a month is 10 times too many,” Couch said.

The commissioners asked for a report back from 911 the week of Oct. 21.