JACKSBORO, TN (WLAF) – At the Campbell County Commission workshop on Monday night, commissioners heard about the shortcomings of ambulance service to the northern parts of the county, but had few concrete suggestions for solving the problem. Watch the meeting HERE on demand from WLAF.
Jellico resident Tom Barkley told commissioners about two incidents where a relative had to wait for transport to the hospital for over two hours and another incident where she passed away from an infection just a few days later, with an ambulance again unavailable to carry her to the hospital.
Barkley added another example of an injured person who could not get timely ambulance transport and summarized, “I’m not saying people aren’t getting good care from the ambulance service. They give excellent care. It’s availability that is the problem. We’re talking about people’s lives here.”
Another speaker, Cindy Smith, also addressed the commission about ambulance shortages in Jellico. Smith pointed out that her mother has to have regular ambulance transport to Knoxville but often no ambulance can be available and scheduled appointments have to be cancelled or delayed.
EMS Director Bruce Perkins told the commission the problem is a shortage of available ambulances and paramedics, leaving the ambulance service shorthanded if emergencies pile up. “We’ve enough personnel to operate one 14-hour truck and two 24-hour trucks but not enough personnel to handle three emergencies at once,” Perkins said.
“Can you make an exception yourself and get this woman to the hospital?” Scott Kitts asked Perkins, who replied that he is always prepared to give emergency aid but that wouldn’t solve the shortage of fully manned trucks. Mayor E. L. Morton also chimed in, emphasizing “Emergency is the key word here. We have to respond to emergencies over any scheduled runs.”
“What we need to do is help Jellico get open their hospital,” Morton added, pointing out that presently, Campbell County’s ambulances must travel either to LaFollette, Corbin or Knoxville on hospital runs, taking up much of the available response time.
Ambulance availability was also on the agenda of the Budget and Finance Committee, which approved a budget amendment for $18,569 to replace the engine in one aging Ford ambulance after it was determined that it will take about 24 months before two new replacement ambulances can be delivered to the county. The county hopes to pay for two new ambulances with federal ARP funds but the process of ARP approval won’t begin until January with 24 months being the expected delivery time.
The commissioners approved the amendment to pay for the rebuilt engine needed to extend the life of one aging ambulance. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 12/15/2021-6AM)