Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

July 20, 2013

Tazewell County Fire & Rescue: Squad resolving challenges

TAZEWELL, Va. — Earlier this month, Tazewell County Fire & Rescue found itself in a pinch brought on by traditionally slow Medicare payments for services rendered, that forced the agency to delay payments to some of its vendors, according to Mike Hymes, southern district representative on the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors.

“The week of July 4th, Tazewell County Fire & Rescue received a visit from a representative of the State Health Department, Department of Emergency Medical Services,” Hymes wrote in response to an email question seeking comment. “It is this group’s responsibility to monitor rescue squads to ensure they are properly manned and stocked with the proper supplies and/or medicines to meet the state guidelines for the level of care they are approved to provide.”

According to Hymes, the review revealed that the squad did not have some of the required supplies and were suspended until they could obtain the proper supplies needed to continue operations. Hymes pointed out that TCF&R is not a county agency, but receives funding from the county like other fire departments. He added that the rescue squad bills for its services like other rescue squads.

Hymes said that he had been appointed to serve on the agency’s board in June, and was notified on July 5, that “the rescue squad’s privileges to operate were suspended pending the acquisition of the proper supplies.” He said that he, along with board members and the board’s attorney notified Tazewell County Sheriff Brian Hieatt, who instructed 911 to remove the squad from the eligible call board until the proper supplies could be acquired.

“One reason the supplies were lacking was that supplies had been ordered, but the supplier was owed for a prior order and thus, the squad could not receive the necessary supplies,” Hymes wrote. “Our board and officers immediately found the funds and wrote the supplier a check for the amount due and the necessary supplies were shipped to the squad, plus other squads had loaned Tazewell County Fire & Rescue supplies and medications to help out.”

Hymes said that he attended his first board meeting on Wednesday, July 17, learned that the supplies were on order and the received clearance from the state to resume operations, but an additional problem came up to delay the restart — the physician who had been serving as the Operational Medical Director, Dr. Robert Cahoon, had left the area without notifying the squad. Hymes said that the squad office is working to find another OMD.

“Once the OMD issue is resolved, the squad will be reactivated,” Hymes wrote. “I want to assure everyone that 911 and the sheriff’s office have cooperated to cover all calls which would normally be answered by Tazewell County Fire & Rescue, and that the agency will return to service shortly and continue to perform their vital services to the citizens of Tazewell County.

“The fire department portion of TCF&R has continued to function as usual during this period,” according to Hymes.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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