Va. Ambulance Service Closes, County Searches for Coverage

Va. Ambulance Service Closes, County Searches for Coverage

News Jan 03, 2018

Jacksonville Journal-Courier, Ill.

Jan. 02—VIRGINIA—A long-time emergency service provider will close at the end of February, causing a scramble to ensure how to handle more than 300 calls for assistance a year.

MECCA Paramedics will close Feb. 28. It provides services in a 155-mile area in and around the county.

Bob Daniel of Virginia, owner of MECCA (Massie's Eastern Cass County Ambulance) Paramedics, began working at there in 1976. The provider was formed in 1965 by James Massie and Richard Pugh. Massie also owned a funeral home and was a coroner, undertaker and paramedic at the time.

"You never knew what you were going to do when you got to work, there were many hats we could wear," Daniel said. "I love providing this service, being able to provide this service."

Daniel has worked alongside Pat Blair of Chandlerville, also a paramedic, after MECCA Paramedics incorporated in 1987, putting in 30 years of operation with the service, 24 hours a day and seven days a week. The service has covered a large portion of Cass County as well as bits of Mason, Sangamon and Morgan counties.

Blair said the board that owns the equipment, CAV—short for Chandlerville, Ashland, Virginia—EMT, will decide what will be done with the equipment at a later date.

MECCA services 300 to 350 calls a year. Daniel and Blair said they had hoped to find someone who could take over the coverage area, have had no luck in finding a replacement. On Feb. 28, after MECCA Paramedics's insurance runs out, its coverage of that area will end.

When the business finally closes, the responsibility of covering the area will fall on the county's shoulders.

Beardstown will answer 911 calls from the area, Beardstown Mayor Leslie Harris said. The city is working closely with the county to try to find the best solution for keeping coverage in the area.

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"We're still in negotiations," Harris said. "We've had [Beardstown Police, Fire and Ambulance] committee meetings and we're making sure all the facts are presented. When we get an answer we'll go back to committee for review, but nothing has been decided yet."

Cass County Board Chairman David Parish said the process has been a long one but noted there aren't many options available. One possibility discussed in committee meetings has included the purchase of the MECCA building by the county and a two-year staffing agreement with Beardstown.

"Beardstown is interested in taking it over, but we're trying to work out the differences," Parish said. "If Beardstown were to take over the whole thing, there would have to be a separate station in Virginia. The only was it's really feasible is to have a separate base in Virginia."

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