Our View: Meeting offers hope for city, county, EMS

Published 9:19 am Thursday, September 12, 2019

A meeting that brought together city and county officials this week to discuss the operations and agreement about Clark County’s EMS situation was a critical first step to addressing a big need in the community.

The newly-formed EMS committee met for the first time Tuesday to examine EMS operations and take a look at the current city-county agreement for funding the EMS service in Clark County.

Winchester Mayor Ed Burtner, Clark County Judge-Executive Chris Pace, magistrates Chris David and Greg Elkins, and city commissioners JoEllen Reed and Ramsey Flynn were all appointed to serve on the committee.

Email newsletter signup

The Winchester Fire Department and the Clark County Ambulance Service merged in 1990 under an agreement that had the city and county splitting the cost of any overages 50-50.

In 1997, the agreement was amended for the city to pay 55 percent of any expenses above the budget, with the county paying 45 percent. Those amounts were based on population in and outside of the Winchester city limits.

Today, Winchester Fire-EMS is struggling with a number of issues including increasing run volume as well as challenges in recruiting and retaining new firefighters, EMTs and paramedics. Winchester Fire-EMS Chief Cathy Rigney said previously adding staff would allow the department to take more transfers, which in turn generates more revenue.

After a staff increase to add 10 positions for a fourth ambulance was not included in the city’s fiscal year 2020 budget, the city commissioners voted 3-2 in July to add six positions as well as a budget amendment to fund the positions.

CRMC officials said previously they have had to call ambulances from other counties when Winchester Fire-EMS did not have staff available to take patient transfers.

An agreement made more than 20 years ago is likely outdated and deserves a second look by this committee and the city and county governing bodies. Certainly in those two decades, population ratios have changed as has run volumes, revenue opportunities and more.

Since the city and county are both funding these services, and there is an obvious need for some adjustments to be made to ensure the service runs at its fullest capability, it is critical that conversations like these occur.

We have long applauded the city and county for their ability to work together not just on these measures, but many others over the years. That is not always that case in other communities with city and county governments.

This committee and others like it make it possible for both entities to have a fair say in how the vital services in our community are run.

The committee meets again in October and we are hopeful some necessary adjustments and improvements can be made from the work it does.