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Ambulance services see little merger impact

March 4, 2011

PARKERSBURG - Officials with the ambulance services at Camden-Clark Memorial and St. Joseph's hospitals are not expecting to see any impact from the upcoming merger of the two hospitals under a single system.

In a plan announced in 2010 and expected to be completed early this year, the West Virginia United Health System is purchasing St. Joseph's Hospital while simultaneously affiliating with Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital, bringing both groups together under one organization.

Both hospitals will be consolidated under the CCMH legal and governance structure and operate as a subsidiary of WVUHS.

Article Photos

Photo by Wayne Towner
Rick Bibbee, paramedic and shift coordinator with the Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital Ambulance Service, checks supplies on one of the service’s vehicles. The merger involving CCMH and St. Joseph’s Hospital is currently not expected to impact the ambulance services at either hospital.

The two ambulance services are different in format, with the CCAS as a department of the hospital while the SJAS is a separate private business. For many years, both services have transported patients to both hospitals.

Derek Wilson, ambulance service supervisor for CCAS, said the service, which started in 1976, employs about 50 people, including 30 full-time personnel. The service provides five ambulances for Wood County and 24-hour service in Pleasants County, doing emergency calls through the Wood County 911 center and providing transfers in-town and out-of-town between facilities.

Over the past several years, CCAS has continued to work to maintain and upgrade the technology, knowledge and skills used by the ambulance service in its duties, Wilson said. In 2010, it added new cardiac monitors which will have the capability to send medical readings through cellphones to emergency rooms. It may be getting some new ambulances in 2011and other equipment to continue providing service.

Wilson said the ambulance service has not received any information about any type of impact the merger might have on it. None of the other hospitals currently in the system have ambulance services, so he is interested in seeing if any changes will be made to the CCAS.

"We're looking forward to the merger to see what possibilities might be ahead for us," he said.

"Everything we've heard, we're just staying the same," Wilson said.

Dwane Weekley, president of SJAS, said the for-profit ambulance service was started about 35 years ago and became a separate business in 2003. Since that time it has grown from 38 employees to 70 full- and part-time staff members operating 12 vehicles for patient care and transfer services.

While St. Joseph's Hospital will convert to nonprofit status under the merger, Weekley said SJAS is a for-profit business and is expected to remain so following the merger, including continuing to pay its share of taxes. The service currently leases space at St. Joseph's and he expects that to continue as well.

Weekley doesn't expect any changes in how dispatching occurs since that is a county function.

"I honestly can't see any changes in a negative manner in any way," Weekley said of the merger. "I think it will be business as usual for the ambulance services."

The SJAS plans to continue to invest in itself to improve the care the community receives.

"We're looking forward to continue working cooperatively with CCMH as we have since 1975," he said of the relationship the two ambulance services have had with both hospitals for years.



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