Wise County officials say Appalachia will continue to burn, emergency services | New

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WISE — Appalachian residents will continue to receive fire and emergency medical service coverage despite a disagreement over Wise County funding for the department.

Wise County Administrator Mike Hatfield released a statement Thursday saying the Appalachia Fire and Rescue organization has told county and city officials in Appalachia that it will cease emergency medical services coverage in the city and adjacent county response area after July 2.

Hatfield said the department also notified county and city officials that fire protection service may also be limited after July 2. Department officials have indicated they may have to lay off staff after July 2, he added.

“Wise County and the City of Appalachia want to assure all residents and citizens in these areas that you will continue to have fire and rescue services,” Hatfield said. “There will be no interruption in coverage.”

Hatfield said the county and city are working with rescue teams in Big Stone Gap, Norton and Keokee to help cover service needs in Appalachia at this time. A recent meeting between the department and county officials saw a request for county funds of $299,000 to continue operations, he added.

“We budgeted more this year for the department than it received last year,”

said Hatfield. “The Wise County Board of Supervisors and the Appalachian City Council are committed to protecting the lives and property of all residents and citizens of Wise County.”

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Travis Anderson, Appalachia’s assistant fire and rescue chief, said Thursday that the department’s $299,000 request stems from a slowdown in insurance reimbursements for EMS calls.

“Since we took over EMS calls in 2014, we’ve gone from around 200 fire calls a year to 800 to 1,000 EMS calls,” Anderson said, adding that compensation company reimbursements that handles decreased ambulance call billing. in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.

“We don’t sue patients who can’t afford to pay,” Anderson said.

County funding cannot be used to pay department staff, Anderson said, and insurance reimbursement was the primary source of payment for the 12 department staff trained among the department’s 20 total. .

Appalachia Fire and Rescue receives about $70,000 a year from the county, Anderson said, with an equal split for fire departments and EMS.

Anderson said he spoke with Norton and Big Stone Gap fire personnel and was concerned about their ability to add more coverage for Appalachia while serving their own jurisdictions.

“Wise County is last in the state for per capita fire and EMS service funding,” Anderson said.

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