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Local EMS service closes

KINGWOOD — Mountaineer Ambulance Service has permanently closed its doors. It is the second Preston County ambulance squad to do so; Valley Ambulance was the first.

 KAMP Ambulance has been covering Mountaineer’s runs since October. The decision to do this was made during a special session to get input from the representatives of the six remaining ambulance squads after D. Rolland Jennings indicated Mountaineer Ambulance was unable to function as an EMS agency to cover its designated area.

He said he would meet with the commission at the end of the three-month period and give an update on the status of the ambulance squad.

“We’re closing our doors due to funding and a lack of volunteers,” Jennings told The Dominion Post following this week’s meeting. “There wasn’t enough money to make ends meet.”

He said it costs roughly $60,000 a year to keep a volunteer squad going.

“I figured up how much it would take for a paid organization,” Jennings said. “It would cost approximately $550,000 to run one truck.”

He said these figures were based on a Tucker County ambulance squad that runs two trucks at the cost of $1.1 million per year.

“Preston County has to have some volunteers,” Jennings said. “And the county is going to have to support the volunteers. From Fellowsville to Ruby [Memorial Hospital in Morgantown] is a 60-mile round trip. It takes nine gallons of fuel at $3 per gallon to make that trip.”

He said Mountaineer Ambulance was serving an older population, and Medicare and Medicaid don’t pay enough to cover the trips.

Jennings said it is up to the Preston County Commission to supply adequate EMS service.

He said $50,000 per squad would support the volunteers, and the money they made on runs would be available to cover extra costs.

“Other counties have benefits. Preston County can’t afford them. If each squad got $50,000, it would let them provide health insurance,” he said.

Jennings said Mountaineer Ambulance will never come back.

“I believe we will lose even more squads,” he said. “I asked JanCare if Preston County could support a paid squad, and they said no, we have to have volunteers because there are not enough paid runs.”

 He said Mountaineer Ambulance was formed in the early 1970s.

“It used to be 15 to 20 years ago, I had 30 to 40 EMTs and two to three paramedics, and we made lots of runs,” Jennings said. “Financially, Mountaineer had to give up. We used to do a lot of fundraising, but with COVID, all of that stopped”

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