JEFFERSON COUNTY, W.Va. - An increase of service calls, lower volunteer turnout and county budget cuts has led Jefferson County's Volunteer Fire Departments and the Emergency Services Agency to change their policies on transporting dead bodies.
"We can't tie up our shortage of manpower for hours on end to handle somebody that's deceased," said Douglas Pittinger, Director of Jefferson County Emergency Services. "I don't mean that to be detrimental or disrespectful, it's just that call volume is increasing and the staffing is decreasing."The companies said it takes two to three hours to handle a person who has passed, and during that time they could miss other emergency calls.
"With the shortage of volunteers and the shortage of career staffing, we may be missing other calls," Pittinger explained. "We've decided the time has come, we need to get out of the transport of the deceased."
"JCESA took a 20 percent cut in our budget, which relates to 4,360 hours of career staffing that's been reduced," said Ed Hannon, Deputy Director of Jefferson County ESA.
The board wants the people of Jefferson County to know that even though they've had to make budget cuts and that they are short staffed, that they are still willing to assist families."
"We're still going to show up," said Marshall DeMeritt, Chief of EMS with the Shepherdstown Fire Department. "We're still going to help the family make arrangements and anything we can through that time. We're working together with the ESA and the volunteers to make sure the county has adequate staffing for life-saving emergencies."
The Chief Medical Examiner's Office will now be responsible for the transportation.