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County holding Lifeguard accountable

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SALYERSVILLE – The status of the local ambulance service was discussed at length in Tuesday night’s Magoffin County Fiscal Court, with the judge-executive telling the business to either fix the problems or they would find another way to provide those services to Magoffin County citizens.

Magoffin County Judge-Executive Matt Wireman opened up the meeting to business from the floor, noting that it is no secret that Magoffin has been having an issue with the ambulance service, turning the floor over to Bert Absher, Lifeguard’s director of operations for East Kentucky.

Absher said that Magoffin County is just as important as any other county in their service area and they have found some deficiencies in response times and staffing issues.

“We enacted some things we thought would help and didn’t, and I’ve met with Scott [Jenkins, with Magoffin 911 Dispatch], comparing data and seeing what our failures are.”

“The expectation that this county and citizens here have adequate 911 coverage is valid and we’ve not done that,” Absher said.

He told the court they have stopped servicing nursing homes outside of Magoffin with Magoffin ambulances, stating they will take care of this county first. He said any hospital transfers will be for Magoffin County patients only and that they are not going to be the primary responder for transfers. 

Absher said when Lifeguard bought out Trans-Star, with the transition occurring in April, he did not meet with the judge-executive, the fiscal court or Magoffin County 911, which he is trying to rectify now. 

As for the staffing issues, he said they are offering more hiring and recruiting incentives, developed an EMT academy, sign-on bonuses, and student loan forgiveness. He said they had cut hours of workers when they took over to make sure people were not working unsafe amounts, but they have since realized they were losing workers due to lack of flexibility in the scheduling, so they are working to fix that, too. 

He said they have also noticed that they do not have defined good expectations of crews regarding how to respond and what 911 needs, stating they have had a scary “Level Zero” responses, where they don’t have ambulances in the county, so he said they have to have a plan to avoid and deal with “Level Zero.” 

Absher said they are strategically scheduling planned appointments, like dialysis (which is a priority), doctor visits, etc., so that they are not using all the county’s resources all at once. 

He said they also have huge hiring events coming up in Magoffin, Pike and Floyd counties.

Absher said, in addition to staffing, they’re also looking at cutting down response times, noting it takes 40 minutes to get from the station to Garrett and 15-20 minutes to get to the Morgan County line.

“If we hit ‘Level Zero,’ before we would put a truck on the county line, but now we’re bringing one to the station, at least.”

Absher concluded that they are using all of their resources to fix the problems and improve communications, saying they will be at every fiscal court meeting to be held accountable. 

“Today, we’re more focused than ever before and Magoffin is just as important to us as any other county,” Absher said.

Magistrate Darrell Ray Howard told Absher, “You speak good words, but it’s just if you follow it with actions.”

Magistrate Pernell “Buck” Lemaster said his 18-month-old nephew had a seizure recently and they loaded him up and took him to the hospital in a private vehicle.

“We don’t want people to wonder if they should go in a private vehicle or dial 911,” Absher said. “I know we’ve failed if that’s the reaction. AMR didn’t buy an existing service to fail, but it’s not been immediate, and it’s took longer than it should, but this is our full team’s commitment.”

Judge Wireman said he has struggled with the fact that Lifeguard has been here since April and that’s been months and countless emergencies.

“If I’ve got roads or tiles that need worked on and it takes a couple of weeks, that’s not acceptable, but it’s not life-threatening,” Judge Wireman said. “We’ve had some harsh words in private, and I won’t do that here, but make no mistake, Magoffin County will not stand by another six months for this to be corrected. If it’s not, we won’t stand idly by. I don’t want to get into the ambulance service, but if we have to, we will. I’m hoping to see improvements by December. This is totally unacceptable. It’s frustrated me for years when we have an ambulance on the county line. I’m very hopeful and pleased that after we talked this morning you’ve had a lot of discussions and addressed my concerns.”

When asked, Absher said Magoffin has two new ambulances coming and they have seven more they will have in the area by the end of the year.

Wireman assured Absher, “I will be holding you accountable. Our conversations have been good, but I guarantee if I hear the same issues next week, we’ll talk.”

 

ALSO IN THE MEETING

At the beginning of the November 19 fiscal court meeting they held a moment of silence in honor of the late Randall Risner, who was instrumental in the development of Battlefield Park, on Half Mountain Road, and for Henry J. Joseph, a dedicated DAV commander and water board member, noting they will have resolutions and dedications honoring both men.

“I can’t say enough about them,” Magoffin County Judge-Executive Matt Wireman said. “They both had a heart of service.”

During department reports, Deputy Judge Kevin Howard told the court the bid process will begin next week for the restrooms at the Battlefield Park, explaining that the designs have been approved by the state.

He said the Laurel Branch bridge has now been replaced with a box culvert and is open to traffic, and that the White Oak Bridge replacement is in progress, which will also be a box culvert.

Howard reminded the public that the Korean War marine, Pfc. Ray Fairchild, who was killed in action in 1950 and whose remains were finally identified this year will be returning home today on Thursday, November 21, arriving in Lexington at 8:29 p.m. His body will be escorted back to Magoffin, with flags and fire trucks set up at the Gifford Exit on the Parkway as he is brought back home. The funeral services will be held Saturday, November 23 at 1 p.m., with burial to follow at the Fairchild Cemetery. 

He also updated the court, telling them that all the FEMA projects are completed.

Through the veterans committee’s research, the court passed resolutions honoring Private First Class Ray Palmer Fairchild, Corporal Paul Harrison Cordell, and Private First Class Blaine Minix. Those resolutions can be found on A6. 

Wireman commended the committee, stating they have done a lot of work, with a lot more to come. He said they have found at least 28 Magoffin men from the Army that were killed in action in World War II. 

The court awarded a structural steel bid to Progress Rail, which was the cheapest. 

They also approved bids from GeoConnect for a computer-aided dispatch system and INdigital for a 911 phone system. Both the bids were the only bids made for each advertisement, but fit the project descriptions and the budgetary range set by the KOHS grant the received to upgrade 911 Dispatch. The bids were accepted pending review of Big Sandy ADD. 

They approved the county road list, which Wireman said they have been checking to make sure has accurate road distances. He said the state’s road list varies from the list made in 2000, but they have purchased the digital measuring instruments and are updated the distances to make sure they’re accurate. He explained that the county receives funding based on the road length totals, so making sure all county roads are on the list and accurately measured assures Magoffin receives the proper amount of funding. 

“We have 900 roads and 300 miles and we want this to be accurate,” Wireman said.

Wireman said he is checking into options for filling potholes in the winter, noting that they have put down 360 tons of cold patch this year, but it doesn’t work in colder weather. He said for gravel roads they’re looking into Claycrete, which will make gravel roads more durable and easier to service, almost like concrete. 

The court also approved the fund transfer of $40,000 from the general fund to the jail fund.

The Magoffin County Fiscal Court’s next regular meeting is tentatively set for December 17 at 6 p.m.
 

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