Ambulance station closed due to mold

Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Marshall County EMS Director James Whorley shows one of the new shirts and patches that are to be part of his department's uniform.

The ambulance station on Mooresville Highway was closed last month by the Marshall County Emergency Medical Services director because employees' health was threatened by mold growing in the building.

"It'll burn your eyes," Director James Whorley told the Marshall County Commission's EMS Committee on Thursday evening. "We've got water in the trunk lines of the central unit, water in the vents, and there's mold."

The water that led to mold is from the air conditioning system which condenses humid air into water. That water is to be properly drained, but a malfunction allowed mold to grow.

Paramedics, emergency medical technicians and their ambulance were moved to EMS headquarters on South Ellington Parkway, Whorley said. The two-year-old headquarters were built to accommodate the level of staffing there now.

Some furnishings moved from the west station had to be aired out and treated for mold, the director said.

Response time to the west side of Lewisburg may have increased by two minutes without the ambulance housed at a portable building obtained in June last year from the Air Evac Inc., Whorley said.

The portable building replaced a 12-year-old mobile home. Land for the station is provided by National HealthCare Corp., the Murfreesboro-based company that operates NHC HealthCare of Lewisburg on the east side of the now-closed ambulance station. NHC officials have explained the close proximity of an ambulance station was seen as an advantage for the health care business.

Repair costs for the closed ambulance station range from $3,500 to $6,000, but that's NHC's responsibility, Whorley said.

County Commissioner Dean Delk, a member of the committee that was meeting in the ambulance service's headquarters, asked if Whorley had spoken with NHC officials about dealing with the mold. Whorley said he had and that NHC officials replied they'd rather not face the expense.

Repairs would probably include replacement of damp and/or rotted flooring and when committee Chairwoman Reynelle Smith said she wanted to inspect the building, Whorley replied, "We've raised all the windows to deal with it, but you couldn't stay there because of the stench."

Delk recommended the EMS Committee refer the issue to the County Commission's Building Committee for a review of the agreement between the county and NHC. The agreement was reached in 1995 when Jimmy Adams was director of the EMS.

"NHC is not being difficult," Whorley reported. After being advised of the situation, a company official replied to the EMS director with a simple question, "'What do you want to do?'

"Get rid of it," is preferable, the director said, so it appears that may be the result of this development.

West station employees were transferred on Sept. 26, Whorley said.

"I think you did the right thing to move them," said Smith, seconding Delk's motion to support Whorley's recommendation and refer the contract issue to the Buildings committee. The vote was unanimous, including support from Commissioner Jimmy Wolaver, a member of the Building Committee.

Also voicing support for Whorley's decision were Commissioners Wilford "Spider" Wentzel and Billy Spivey.

"I don't blame him for pulling them (the employees) out," Wentzel said.

Spivey told Whorley, "You didn't have any choice."

Also Thursday, the EMS Committee elected officers.

Chairwoman Smith was re-elected. Commissioner Seth Warf, who's moved to another committee, was vice chairman. He's been succeed by Spivey.

Wolaver succeeds Commissioner Scott Poarch as committee secretary as Poarch has other assignments.