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Controversy over Wythe County EMS comment

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A comment allegedly said by a Wythe County staff member to a first responder is causing some outrage in the community.

 The quote says, "EMS should not be confused for a vital service. Unlike police and fire it's not mandated by the state."

The quote headlines an anonymous blog circulating the internet called 'Rural Responders.'

"Whether it's to go pick an elderly man off the floor at 2 a.m., that just needs help or in cardiac arrest, what we do is very vital," paramedic Dustin Hazlewood says.

"I think the thought that EMS is not a vital service is crazy," JD Hancock, Wythe County Executive Director says.

We sat down with the Wythe County Public Information Officer Jeremy Farley to get some answers.

He says as a whole, Wythe County leaders don't agree with the alleged comment, but are open to addressing feedback on the blog.

"We're still going through all the material and seeing what things can be fixed and what things can be corrected," Wythe County Public Information Officer Jeremy Farley says. "These are serious concerns and they require a serious look."

Farley says it's obvious the county cares about EMS with the hundreds of thousands of dollars put into the new 9-11 call center. The blog addresses concerns with the amount of money dispatchers are paid and how they are trained. The average salary is $21,630, which many people on the blog believe is too low. Farley says after benefits the salary looks more like $30,000. He also a new grant will help with training.

Many comments on the blog are anonymous because people working in the county say they fear retaliation by the county leaders. Several people e-mailed WSLS saying they were scared to comment publicly because they didn't want to be fired from their jobs.

Both first responders and the county hope the blog creates a new open dialogue about pressing issues within EMS.

The blog also addresses issues with Wythe County Rescue Squad having to take on calls from Lead Mines Rescue Squad. Many people are excited to see Lead Mines back up and running, but it's not in full-swing.

It's affecting response times for Wythe County Rescue Squad, because Lead Mines can only respond to Basic Life Support calls. This means any Advanced Life Support calls, like a heart attack or stroke, have to be sent to Wythe County Rescue Squad.

Wythe County's Executive Director J.D. Hancock says his squad is averaging 22 minutes in response times to get to those areas when it used to be cut in half when they had a second squad. The second squad was dissolved when Lead Mines re-opened December 22nd. 

The squad was originally shutdown by the county after too many complaints from residents. The Lead Mines Board of Directors says they've changed leaders and plan to have the proper licensing as soon as possible. They are also taking applications for openings.