Washington County/Johnson City EMS Executive Director Dan Wheeley addresses Unicoi County officials during a meeting last week. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

Washington County/Johnson City EMS Executive Director Dan Wheeley and Washington County/Johnson City EMS Unicoi County Director Lt. Adam Copas attended the Unicoi County Ambulance Committee meeting on Thursday, Sept. 19, and gave an update on call volume since taking over ambulance service on July 15.

According to Wheeley, from July 15 through Sept. 15, Washington County/Johnson City EMS took 671 calls in Unicoi County. Of the 671 calls, 516 calls were transports.

“That’s roughly 76 percent of the calls,” Wheeley said of the transports.

Wheeley and Copas also provided the committee with statistics about where patients are being transported. The bulk of transports in Unicoi County are going to Johnson City Medical Center and Unicoi County Hospital.

According to data provided by Wheeley and Copas, 39.9 percent of the calls went to Johnson City Medical Center and 29.6 percent calls went to Unicoi County Hospital.

“We are going to try to go to the closest facility, unless it is something we know needs to go to Johnson City,” Copas said.

According to Unicoi County Ambulance Committee Chairman John Mosley, the Unicoi County Commission is prepared to start discussions about what to do when the Washington County/Johnson City EMS contract is up in July of 2020.

“This is great information as we prepare for the future,” Mosley said.

According to Mosley, county officials must decide if they are going to put the service out for bid or if the county will begin its own service. Should county officials decide to start their own service, the county could run the service annually to the cost of roughly $218,000, according to Wheeley, which is the subsidy Unicoi County is paying Washington County/Johnson City EMS currently.

Unicoi County Commission Chairman Loren Thomas acknowledged that since the numbers are rolling in, the commission could begin preparing earlier than their original six month target date.

“I know we aimed at looking at the numbers and preparing for our next move around January, but since they (Washington County/Johnson City EMS) keep giving us this data, we can begin working on the future sooner,” Thomas said.

Thomas claimed that the success of the service lies in the leadership of Copas.

“We have heard nothing but positive things, and Adam (Copas) has gone out of his way to reach out with other organizations in the area to improve communication,” Thomas said.

Wheeley agreed with Thomas and feels that the stability in Unicoi County will lead to more EMTs applying for jobs to work in the county.

“There are good, talented people working here (Washington County/Johnson City EMS Unicoi County) and Adam (Copas) have been able to provide stability and together they have been very efficient,” Wheeley said. “With that stability, more people will be looking to join.”

The Unicoi County Ambulance Committee is scheduled to meet again on Tuesday, Oct. 22, at 3 p.m.