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Ambulance Service sets new record for calls

By Greg Bird

McCreary County ambulances traveled nearly a quarter of a million miles in 2019 – just one of the impressive end-of-year numbers released by EMS Director Jimmy Barnett last week.
According to Barnett, EMS crews responded to 4,565 calls over the course of the year; including 278 accidents, 2,290 medical calls, 436 cardiac, 48 strokes and 14 obstetric calls – which also resulted in paramedics delivering two babies inside ambulances.
Of all the calls, only 205 were canceled or resulted in no patients being transported.
Those numbers represent an increase of about 35 total runs over the previous year, making 2019 the most ever done by the department.
“It seems every year is a new record,” Barnett said.
The total includes 632 non-emergency transfers – just over 12 a week for the department. Those runs, where crews transport a patient between their home and a treatment center, or from one hospital to another in non-emergency situations, have been the bread and butter for the department to earn additional revenue, not only for the Ambulance Service, but for the County as well. The department has a contract with Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital that provides the bulk of the transports, mainly between LCRH and Lexington, which brings revenue from outside of the county for the department, helping sustain the decision to add a dedicated non-emergency transfer unit to the service.
Barnett said the department has 52 employees, 23 full-time, who work long hours, but get the job done when called on.
“I can’t say enough about the dedication and professionalism of our staff,” he said. “They log a lot of miles, and respond to a lot of calls. Without them, I don’t know where we’d be.”
All those runs means a lot of miles logged on each of the department’s six ambulances – an average of about 40,000 miles on each unit annually. As such maintenance is an issue, but Barnett has been proactive on that score – setting aside a small portion of revenue each month to a dedicated fund to refurbish at least one unit per year.

Refurbishing essentially overhauls the entire unit, taking the old box and cab and placing it on a new chassis, with a new engine and transmission. Refurbishing is much cheaper than purchasing a new unit outright, and keeps the fleet at the highest standards possible.
“We try to use grant funds as much as possible when refurbishing, as well as purchasing new equipment,” Barnett added. “We try to save the local taxpayer as much as we can possibly can.”

The Ambulance Service has obtained more than $1 million in grants over the past several years.

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