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New year brings relief to ambulance service: Organization receives CARES funding and adds paramedic to staff

By: Jeremy D. Wells

Carter County Times

Carter County emergency ambulance ended their year up by 21 runs over December of 2019. They had 500 runs for the month, beating the 2019 total of 479 calls. But even with that December jump they were down for 2020 by 73 runs compared to 2019. The services total number of runs for 2020 was 5,468. Those weren’t all billable calls, however, executive director Rick Loperfido explained.

“Our monthly volumes are now back to mostly normal rates,” Loperfido told the board on Monday, but the COVID-19 restrictions on travel and activities definitely had an impact on their numbers for 2020. The long wait times at hospitals and the overtime situation related to those waits and the lack of qualified paramedics on staff also had a significant impact on the services overtime costs for the year. 

Some of those issues are being resolved as the new year begins though. 

The ambulance service had finally received their share of CARES money to help offset those overtime costs, Loperfido told the board. He told the board he had received a check for just over $309,000 from fiscal court last week, with that money all aimed at reimbursing payroll costs during the pandemic. 

“I appreciate the county tremendously on that,” he said, noting that Carter County Judge Executive Mike Malone assisted with the process and made sure the ambulance service received their share when CARES funds were distributed again.

In addition to the CARES funds from the state that Malone helped procure, Loperfido said the service received around $150,000 in additional funds from the Phase 3 Federal CARES money distribution. 

The service is also close to adding a second paramedic to staff, and possibly a third, Loperfido told the board. He said increasing staffing levels was sorely needed to cover shifts and offset overtime costs. 

“We also had increased overtime costs last month due to an individual being off on a  Worker’s Compensation issue,” Loperfido said. 

Despite this, he’s thankful for the new paramedic position they were able to hire, something the service has been seeking for some time. 

They have also hired a new office staff member, Lisa Hensley, of Olive Hill. Hensley, who has experience with medical coding, is replacing another staff member who recently put in her notice. 

Loperfido also expressed his concerns about the slow roll-out of the vaccine, but noted that five staff members had already received their first round of vaccinations at the Carter County Health Department. 

“I expect more staff will request the vaccination as we move forward,” Loperfido said, as additional doses and vaccine varieties become available.

Loperfido also gave an update on their ongoing legal drama with RIX, the company that manufactured the air compressor used to refill their air tanks. He was told they may have their compressor back soon, but said he has discussed options with their legal counsel if they do not receive it or if it still doesn’t work after they receive the repaired compressor. 

He has also applied for grant assistance through FEMA in hopes of receiving money to purchase a new oxygen system. 

The board accepted Loperfido’s report and the financial report before entering executive session to discuss possible litigation and employee issues. No action was taken. 

The next meeting of the emergency ambulance board is scheduled for 3 p.m. on February 8 at the Carter County EMS station in Grayson. 

Future meetings are also scheduled for the second Monday of each month at the EMS station, and set to begin at 3 p.m. on March 8, April 12, May 10, June 14, July 12, August 9, September 13, October 11, November 8, and December 13, 2021.

All meetings are open to the public. 

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com



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