By Richard Rourk
A new ambulance service provider is slated to begin serving the Valley Beautiful in the coming weeks.
During a meeting on Monday, Aug. 10, Unicoi County EMS Executive Director Adam Copas announced to the Unicoi County EMS Board of Directors that Aug. 24 is the new projected date for Unicoi County EMS to go live.
“It’s a little disappointing, but given all we have dealt with during this pandemic, it’s still impressive that we are close to that original August start date,” Copas said. “The only setback we have now is a truck inspection by the state and medical supplies that have been ordered and will be here next week.”
Until Unicoi County EMS takes over the ambulance service in the county, Washington County/Johnson City EMS of Unicoi County will continue to serve the area, according to Unicoi County EMS board member Mayor Doris Hensley.
“I want to thank Washington County/Johnson City Executive Director Dan (Wheeley) and Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy for their assistance in getting this going,” Hensley said. “They have been phenomenal. I want to thank the three municipalities for working together and we have to thank the Board of Controls for the Unicoi County Foundation for Healthcare Inc. We wouldn’t have been able to get this off the ground if it wasn’t for the Board of Controls for the Unicoi County Foundation for Healthcare Inc. We couldn’t have done it without their $250,000 donation.”
According to Hensley, the Board of Controls for the Unicoi County Foundation for Healthcare Inc. president will be available to present Unicoi County EMS with a check for $100,000 after Aug. 17.
The money for the three ambulances came from funds that the Town of Erwin and the Board of Controls for the Unicoi County Foundation for Healthcare Inc. has provided. Bailey presented the Unicoi County EMS Board of Directors a $150,000 check on March 13 to help out with expenses for the startup ambulance service.
Also on Monday, Copas confirmed that one employee had recently tested positive for COVID-19.
“We did have another staff member that has tested positive for COVID-19 and he is back on the job after a quarantine period,” Copas said. “Even with practicing social distancing and taking every precaution, COVID is something that continues to affect us all.”
According to Copas, call volume has balanced out the past two months.
“We are running 12-14 calls a day. That was down to four calls a day during peak COVID times,” Copas said. “I anticipate the first year will be very good and that will put us in a good position in the future, this despite a 40 percent drop due to COVID-19.”
Copas also confirmed several new appointments to the upstart ambulance service during the Aug. 10 meeting.
“We officially hired Lauren White for the position of Unicoi County EMS administration assistant,” Copas said. “White has worked as a CPA and has a degree in accounting. White is currently in training and will start here Aug. 13. We have also named Joseph Shults to serve as the Unicoi County EMS attorney. I would also like to announce our inaugural captain of the upstart EMS service, please welcome Unicoi County EMS Captain Kevin Runion.”
The Unicoi County EMS Board of Directors is scheduled to meet again on Tuesday, Sept. 8, at 4 p.m.