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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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City council discusses School EMS options

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Martinsville officials are exploring ways to make emergency medical care available to students involved in school athletics and other extracurricular activities if needed.

The issue arose after Martinsville City Council on Oct. 22 heard from Shelby White, who said that her son, E.J., suffered a concussion during a Martinsville Middle School football game where no ambulance was stationed.

Coaches in the city schools learn about types of athletic injuries that can occur but they are not experts on such injuries, Martinsville School Board Chairman Robert Williams told the council Tuesday night.

Pam Heath, superintendent of the city schools, has said that schools have started having medically trained staff on hand at sporting events.

“We do have a (athletic) trainer who’s there” and can deal with injuries, Williams told the council.

Having staff trained in dealing with injuries is important, Vice Mayor Gene Teague said, because medical professionals might not be at away games.

City Manager Leon Towarnicki presented two possible options in which the city would be involved.

One option, Towarnicki said, is having a Martinsville Fire & EMS ambulance crew at all games. If that becomes practice, however, the ambulance might have to leave a game to answer medical calls elsewhere in the city, he said.

The other option, he said, is to have two off-duty EMS workers stationed at each game. But that would result in the workers at each game being paid overtime, which he estimated at $210 for two people for three hours.

Mayor Kim Adkins asked Towarnicki and Heath to further discuss costs for providing emergency medical care.

Williams said the school system may look at pursuing an agreement with the private Stone Ambulance Service because it is less likely to be called out for emergency response than a city-operated ambulance.

Councilman Danny Turner asked whether the city would incur any liability if an ambulance had to leave a game and then a medical emergency occurs at the game. No, replied City Attorney Eric Monday.

Councilwoman Sharon Brooks Hodge asked whether the city could incur liability if it has a medical crew at certain school activities but not others.

Monday replied that the city should not be held liable in any way unless it acts “grossly negligent ... and that’s pretty hard to prove.”

Officials did not detail types of activities, other than sporting events, for which it might be appropriate to have medical care on standby.

But “sometimes we have so many extracurricular activities going on at one time” that it may not be possible to have medical care at each, Williams said.

White was not at Tuesday’s council meeting. Speaking from the floor, area resident Chad Martin said she asked him to thank the council for following up on the ambulance issue.


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