GATE CITY — Nearly a month and a half after Ballad Health announced its plan to change Holston Valley Medical Center’s trauma unit from a Level 1 to a Level 3, leaders of Scott County’s emergency medical services still have concerns about how the change will affect the transport of patients. Johnson City Medical Center would continue to maintain a Level 1 trauma center under the proposal.
One of those concerns relates to liability. During Thursday’s meeting of the Scott County Board of Supervisors, Roger Carter of Duffield Fire and Rescue and David Gilliam of the Scott County Life Saving Crew questioned who would be responsible if a patient dies in transport on the way to Johnson City or if a patient dies at HVMC due to the changes.
“Liability, that’s a big thing,” Carter said. “I’ve got a lot of concerns about that.”
In November, Ballad Health officials met with the Scott County Board of Supervisors at which time the BOS voted to draft a resolution opposing the trauma and neonatal intensive care changes. Since then, Carter said some of the county’s EMS personnel have met with Ballad officials a couple of times, though uncertainties remain about how transport will work for Level 1 patients.
“There’s just a lot of questions,” Carter said.
BOS member David Redwine recommended that Scott County EMS work with the Southwest Virginia EMS Council, which covers 13 counties, to ensure EMS crews are not liable for any patient deaths that could result from increased transport time or from lack of needed specialist care at HVMC.
“If Ballad is determined to move ahead with this thing, and your all’s concerns were valid about liability, I think I’d start working from that angle as a Southwest Virginia EMS unit and go to the table and ask them to negotiate some sort of a contract, a liability release, (saying), ‘If you’re going to move this thing to Johnson City, we want you (Ballad) to sign right here that you assume the liability for these deaths. … We’ll haul them, but we’re not going to be stuck with a million-dollar lawsuit because you decided to move to Johnson City,’ ” Redwine told Carter and Gilliam. “I’d push that thing to the end, until they came to the table and at least signed up for the liability, because they can afford it and you all can’t.”
Gilliam said such an agreement would not only benefit Scott County, but also other Southwest Virginia counties served by Ballad Health, such as Lee and Wise.
“The bigger your unit is that is wanting to bargain with them, the more leverage you have,” Redwine added. “They (Ballad) don’t have to agree to that, but you can certainly make them look as if they’re putting you behind the eightball if they do this and don’t agree to the liability.”