PAWHUSKA, Okla. - A struggling ambulance service announced it will no longer respond to emergencies in a large portion of Osage County.
Pulse EMS made the decision to end its coverage of the central part of the county last week, citing financial issues, according to county officials.
The ambulance provider has a history of financial challenges. In 2011, several former employees came forward and accused the owner, Joe Weaver, of owing them thousands of dollars in back pay.
Pulse's decision left two thousand residents without ambulance coverage as county officials scrambled to fill the gap.
At a meeting this week, neighboring ambulance service providers agreed to expand their coverage areas.
"It always puts a strain on other agencies when you lose a service," said Hominy EMS director Brett Whitten.
Whitten said the problem is made worse by tight budgets that all providers have to deal with.
"Anytime you pull an ambulance out of your primary city coverage, you're leaving your city open," said Whitten.
Even so, his department agreed to take on the extra responsibility because he knows how important it is for all residents to have coverage.
Pulse's pullout also kept folks at the county's 911 office busy as they worked around the clock to update coverage maps, a process not as simple as it sounds.
Since Osage is Oklahoma largest and most sparsely populated county, there are quite a few changes that need to be made, according to Osage County 911 director Kay Kelley.
"There's a lot of areas that we have to change on the mapping. It's not just a cut and paste thing," said Kelley.
The expanded coverage is a short-term fix. Some providers, like Hominy, have to get city approval for long-term expanded coverage.
County commissioner Bob Jackson said if the funding is in place, a new ambulance service may be created one day to take over Pulse's former territory.
For now, he is grateful to the county other providers.
"Right now I'm just glad that all these services have stepped up and helped us to cover the area," said Jackson.
While it's reducing its coverage area, Pulse EMS still serves a district on the western side of Osage County in the Fairfax area.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Also in the headlines
Tonight, several families in Carney are picking up the pieces at their homes. A tornado ripped through the south side of town there.