'Something has to be done’: Pike County officials voice concerns about ambulance response time

Published: Oct. 12, 2020 at 7:32 PM EDT
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PIKE COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT) - During the most recent meeting of the Pike County Fiscal Court, county officials continued a discussion that has been ongoing in the community for years: a concern about ambulance response time.

Lifeguard Emergency Medical Services recently took over the certificate of need that was once awarded to TranStar and has been working to cover the area, aside from a small section of the county under the contract of Appalachian First Response. Judge-Executive Ray Jones said the company’s main office being in Pikeville means the outlying areas like Phelps and Stopover are not receiving adequate access to ambulance services that they need.

“I was called earlier this weekend about a response time to an incident at the Dorton area where an ambulance had to come from Neon,” Jones told WYMT. “It is very concerning that it takes so long to get an ambulance to some parts of Pike County.”

Jones said he has been in discussions with Appalachian First Response (AFR) and Lifeguard to suggest a partnership wherein the areas nearest Appalachian First Response’s coverage area would receive help from the closest agency.

“We believe that we can get them working closer together to cover each other," Jones said.

During the fiscal court meeting, a representative from Lifeguard said their contract already includes wording to allow them to step in if the service can’t be en route within ten minutes. The representative said he plans to touch base with AFR to see what can be worked out. But, according to officials, a lack of paramedics and EMTs is one of the main factors.

“We have been told that one of the big problems is a shortage of paramedics and EMTs," said Jones. “It’s a national problem, not just a Kentucky problem.”

During the meeting, officials discussed an existing facility near Phelps that could house an ambulance and be closer to those outlying communities, but the shortage in paramedics means there are not enough EMS workers to staff a satellite building. Jones said he plans to contact the Kentucky Board of Emergency Management Services to find out how the county can better recruit and train paramedics.

Jones said he encourages anyone interested in paramedic work to reach out to the fiscal court or Pike County Emergency Management to discuss their options.

Deputy Judge Executive Reggie Hickman said during the meeting that Lifeguard shows promise with its technology and capabilities, adding that given time to recruit and settle in it is possible that they will be able to provide what the county needs.

Jones said he understands the shortage in personnel, but “something’s gonna have to give" to ensure access to the resources Pike Countians need.

“Something has to be done before it costs someone their life,” Jones said.

He said it was not an overnight issue and it will not be an overnight fix.

“It is going to take some time to address it. It’s been a problem for several years,” Jones said. “This is not something new, but it is something that is very concerning to the fiscal court.”

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