HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) – When you have a medical emergency, the best number to call is 911, but what if there aren’t enough first responders to answer the call?

Cabell County EMS has been busy answering calls not only in their area but all over the tri-state. Officials say they are currently pushing their limits, hoping relief will come sooner rather than later.

Cabell County EMS is currently operating with two fewer ambulances. With their services already being utilized by hospitals like St. Mary’s, being short-staffed causes delays in response times.

Unfortunately, the other evening we had a very high call volume. There were extended wait times at st. Mary’s.

Gordon Merry, Cabell County EMS director

EMS drivers reported an ambulance was kept at St. Marys Medical Center for hours causing an issue with ambulance service availability. According to officials, there’s not just one party to blame, this is a personnel issue happening nationwide.

We can not get employees. We can not get people to work. When something like this happens it just compounds the problem.

Gordon Merry, Cabell County EMS director

Cabell County EMS Director Gordon Merry says even with this staff shortage, they are still providing mutual aid in Putnam, Wayne, Mason, Lincoln, and Lawrence county. In regard to the situation concerning saint mary’s, he says “they’re working on it.”

St. Mary’s released a statement Friday evening addressing the incident.

“Patients are telling us that they have delayed medical care due to covid concerns… We strongly encourage everyone to not delay care and to continue their regular health screenings, including blood pressure checks and cancer and cardiovascular screenings.”

Regina Campbell, Mountain Health Network Chief Nursing Officer

They go on to say the unintended consequence of such actions results in more patients being transported to the emergency room with more serious conditions, bringing up the need for more ambulance services.

Merry is encouraging anyone interested in applying for the open positions to come to their Huntington headquarters at 846 8th Ave, Huntington, WV 25701.