Erwin exploring ambulance options; Washington and Sullivan counties discussing regional service

Sue Guinn Legg • Feb 26, 2019 at 5:46 PM

ERWIN — The town of Erwin is negotiating the possible transfer of the town’s ambulance service to Washington County-Johnson City Emergency Medical Services, pending a possible merger of two locally operated ambulance services that are exploring a contract of all medical transport calls for Ballad Health.

Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley shared the details of negotiations underway with Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy Monday in a Board of Mayor and Aldermen workshop on an pending interlocal agreement that would allow MedicOne Medical Response to continue serving Erwin through its recently approved contract with Unicoi County.

In light of concerns with MedicOne’s slow response to medical emergencies in Erwin that now date back two to three years, Hensley said, Town Attorney Tom Seeley has advised the interlocal agreement can be amended to allow the town to withdraw from the agreement with 10 days notice rather than the 90 day notice currently set out in the agreement.

“Do we want to want to tell the county we don’t like the interlocal agreement as it is?” she asked the board. “Even as late as Friday, they only had one ambulance for the county. It doesn’t seem like anything is being done to improve it.”

Hensley also cited a television interview with MedicOne owner and CEO Dan Reeves in which she said Reeves told an interviewer he did not have a problem providing the number of ambulances required by the Unicoi County contract but with the emergency medical technicians and paramedics needed to staff the ambulances. “That’s in the contract that they have to provide that and he’s saying they can’t,” she said.

Asked by Alderman Mark Lafevar what other options were available to Erwin, Hensley told the board Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy and Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable “are still at the table” in discussion of a possible merger of the locally operated ambulance services in their counties.

According to Hensley, the merger would take “a regional approach” to ambulance service that would also encompass Unicoi and Carter counties.

She said Grandy has also discussed the possibility of transferring to Washington County a $400,000 grant that was awarded to the town for the purchase of ambulances.

In meantime, Hensley said, Grandy has assured her that Washington County “has your back” and will be available to assist Erwin at any time its ambulances are needed, initially at no cost other than the insurance reimbursement they would receive for answering calls in Erwin.

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