By Wyatt Goolsby
STANTON - Emergency officials in Stanton say they're left with no choice. Their insurance company has dropped coverage on four experienced EMT volunteers. Why? Because they're older than 65. Now, they're left with no choice but to look for younger medics.
Hospital officials in Martin County told NewsWest 9 they've tried to work the problem and find a solution, but they added for right now, their insurance company is putting them in a bind.
"We have to be on call at all times, because we never know when we get a call, when we're going to have to run," Sarah Barnes, a Martin County EMS volunteer, explained.
Barnes herself just turned 73, and has more than two dozen years of experience behind the wheel of an ambulance.
"It's a rewarding job, to know you can help people, and people seem to appreciate you helping them," Barnes said.
But all that seems to be over for Barnes and three other volunteers. The hospital district's insurance company announced suddenly, they're not covering the medics 65 years or older.
"It was kind of like a big slap in the face," Barnes said.
"We talked to them several times, explained to them what was going on," Paul McKinney, administrator at the Martin County Hospital, explained. "No one likes it. These are great people, we love them to death. They've committed to this service for years, a lot longer than I've been here or will hope to be here, and we're just kind of stuck in the middle."
McKinney said he and others have been working for months to try and figure out a way to avoid preventing volunteers like Barnes from driving. However, it's not just the older medics that are missing out here. McKinney said their insurance company won't cover one of the younger volunteers without six years of driving experience.
"We're not just picking on the older folks. we're picking on the younger ones too. Again, it doesn't make any sense. I mean, he's an excellent driver, but we're stuck," McKinnney said.
"This is a volunteer organization, and when they tell you can't do it," Barnes said as she paused to think. "You know, if we hadn't been doing a good job that would have made a different, but I feel like our EMS system here is a very good one."
For now, Barnes said she'll stay with EMS to help teach classes. Hospital administrators said they're also looking for younger volunteers.
Hospital officials said they are continuing to look at the alternatives, and possibly a way to get those volunteers back in the future. They also said come May, the district will be looking at possibly getting a new insurance company.