WEIRTON - The Weirton Area Ambulance and Rescue Service Inc. is in a unique geographical area, and now it is uniquely qualified to provide ambulance service in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
WAARS now is certified to provide ambulance service in all three states, and approximately 80 percent of its emergency medical technicians and paramedics are certified in all three states, with the remainder currently working to become certified, according to Eric Zaney, operations director and paramedic.
"We're in a unique location," he said. "We can be called on for assistance in all three states or have a patient in Weirton needing transport to facilities in Pennsylvania or Ohio. I think we may be the only ground ambulance service licensed in all three states. There are a few emergency agencies who are certified in two states, but I am not aware of any others certified in all three states."
Zaney explained an ambulance agency only needs to be licensed within the state its station is located, but WAARS has been licensed in West Virginia and Pennsylvania for some time, and recently became licensed in Ohio.
There are seven out-of-state agencies licensed to provide ambulance service in Ohio, according to the Ohio Medical Transportation Board, and there are a total of 160 ambulance services licensed to provide transport in West Virginia, according to the West Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services.
Zaney noted the agency itself must be licensed, the ambulances must be inspected and the EMTs and paramedics must be certified separately in each state.
"All of the states do something differently," he said.
In Pennsylvania and Ohio, emergency medical personnel must take continuing education courses, and in West Virginia, personnel must take written and practical exams and take continuing education courses. Zaney noted that while some continuing education courses count toward multiple state requirements, many do not.
"Some classes are only Pennsylvania-, Ohio- or West Virginia-based," he said.
Zaney said the move was made to obtain certification in all three states because of the location of the station and in order to provide a higher level of care for patients.
Information from the Pennsylvania Department of Health's Bureau of Emergency Medical Services was not available early today.
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