Corbin and Whitley County officials say concerns over ambulance response times in the city limits by Whitley County EMS have been ironed out, and a new "on call" policy is now in place to help beef up the number of emergency crews available during busy times.
The issue was raised last week after officials say it took 18 to 20 minutes for Whitley EMS ambulance to arrive at the home of city commissioner Bruce Farris on Feb. 21. Farris had suffered a stroke.
Whitley County EMS Director Kelly Harrison said Tuesday that a new "on call" policy is now in effect that should help ensure enough crews are available at all times to service the county.
"We had it in place this past weekend," Harrison said. "Sometimes you are going to need more ambulances than what we can provide, but we are doing the best we can do and I feel like we are doing a good job."
Basically, a two-person crew will be paid $40 a day on certain days to be on-call and available if needed. Whitley County Judge-Executive Pat White said the idea was not modeled on what any other EMS service was doing, but that it had been utilized in Whitley County in the past.
White and Harrison both pointed out the difficulty of predicting how many ambulances and crews will be needed at any one time. In the 24 hours prior to Farris’s stroke, Whitley EMS crews had only answered two calls in the county.
"We are doing some other comparisons to neighboring counties to make sure our services are at least comparable if not better," White said.
Whitley EMS has eight ambulances in its fleet and is currently looking to purchase a ninth. It has three stations in the county – one in Corbin, another at the Patterson Creek Volunteer Fire Department building in the Gatliff community and the main base in Goldbug off I-75 Exit 15. No other surrounding ambulance agency has more bases.
Harrison confirmed that emergency officials met with Corbin Police Chief David Campbell recently to talk about the issue.
Campbell said last week his officers have complained on numerous occasions about long ambulance response times.
Campbell would not comment on the meeting, but Harrison said it was productive and helped foster a better understanding of the issue.
White noted that the average response time by Whitley EMS in the city limits of Corbin is six minutes.
Corbin Mayor Willard McBurney said he’s spoken with White about the issue a couple of times in the last week and is confidant things have been worked out.
"I talked to Judge White and they are trying to work with us and I think it’s worked out, I really do," McBurney said. "I believe we have all the issues taken care of. If we can work with Whitley that would be fine. He was genuinely concerned about some things that was said and I think we got it all ironed out."
McBurney said the city is not currently looking to start its own ambulance service or contract with another outside agency. In 2008, city officials flirted with the idea of starting a city run ambulance service over concerns there wasn’t enough coverage in the city. Officials also spoke with Ambulance Inc. of Laurel County, a private, non-profit agency that runs the area’s largest ambulance service, but the talks never came to fruition.
The city of Corbin is served currently by both Whitley EMS and Knox County EMS, which operates a base on Roy Kidd Ave.
Whitley EMS has mutual aid agreements with both Knox EMS and Ambulance Inc. of Laurel County.
Harrison said Whitley EMS is dedicated to providing Corbin, and the rest of the county, quality service.
"We will continue to serve the city of Corbin to the best of our ability with the best personnel," Harrison said.