Prestonsburg to 'step up' toward independent ambulance service

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PRESTONSBURG, Ky. (WYMT) - A recently-proposed partnership between the City of Prestonsburg and Lifeguard Emergency Medical Services was declined by the city council this week.

According to Mayor Les Stapleton, the partnership would have been a managerial labor contract that would allow the city to transport emergency patients if Lifeguard needed help and would supply the ambulance for those runs.

Stapleton said the council decided it already had the resources and options to skip the middle man by running its own ambulance from Prestonsburg Fire and Rescue.

"We feel as though we have the facilities to operate that," Stapleton said. "We think that we can take care of the 911 needs for the city of Prestonsburg- emergency needs and transports- and it will release some of the pressure for them to be able to operate in other areas too."

And, he said, this makes the most sense for everyone involved.

"We do it every day. We answer all EMS calls inside the city," Stapleton said. "We were getting on the scenes, we were treating the patient and packaging the patient and then we were prepared for transportation and there was no transportation."

Stapleton said the lack of reliable, timely transportation was a problem last summer. He said it is based on a personnel shortage and a wide geographic coverage area for the company.

"I'm not talking bad about Lifeguard," Stapleton said. "There's a shortage of personnel for EMS and they're trying to address it. Everyone's trying to address it. The problem is, right now, I've got to take care of the emergency needs that we have here in the city of Prestonsburg."

Prestonsburg Fire and Rescue currently employs 13 EMTs, three full-time paramedics and two part-time paramedics. Stapleton said using those men to their full abilities, and giving them access to an ambulance, instead of waiting for a second group to respond, is the best thing for the city.

"The citizens of Prestonsburg pay taxes. They expect services that we need to give them," Stapleton said. "Right now it's time the City of Prestonsburg needs to step up and take care of this."

Lifeguard representatives said this does not change anything about the company or its service to the region.

"We remain committed to working together with mayor Stapleton and to try to work together any way we can to meet the needs of the community," said Global Medical Response Regional Director Elizabeth Ward.

Ward said the planned contract was just a way for the city and the company to help each other out so the city would not have to apply for a certificate of need to run an ambulance service.

"They decided to go ahead and pursue a certificate of need so they would be in control of that and wouldn't have to rely on an outside party to accomplish what they're trying to accomplish," she said.

Stapleton said it will be in the best interest of all involved, freeing up the already limited first responder manpower and providing the quickest possible emergency care for the people of Prestonsburg.