New West Virginia Administrative EMS Director Named

The interim administrative director of the state’s Office of Emergency Medical Services has been named its new permanent leader – a move officials at the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources hope will lend stability to an agency riddled with turnover.

Melissa Kinnaird has served as deputy director for the Center for Threat Preparedness since August 2012 and as interim director of WVOEMS since March 2014. Kinnaird, who started full time as OEMS administrative director on Monday, helped lead the health and medical command system response during multiple public health emergencies, including Hurricane Sandy, the 2012 derecho, the 2014 Freedom Industries chemical spill, and for the first Boy Scout Jamboree event in West Virginia, according to Dr. Rahul Gupta, commissioner of the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health.

“Melissa brings a wealth of administrative experience to the Office of Emergency Medical Services, Gupta said. “In the interim, Melissa has shown exceptional leadership, underscoring her commitment to the people of West Virginia by championing policies such as the EMS for Children program, now considered a model program for the country. Additionally, she has initiated a variety of strategies designed to improve communication across the State EMS system.

Joe Lynch, executive director of the Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority, said prior to the announcement that he and other county EMS officials hoped the BPH would appoint an administrative director with EMS experience. Kinnaird was appointed interim administrative director of OEMS in March of 2014; prior to that, she had never worked directly in EMS.

“Non-EMS folks just don’t have the necessary knowledge to help the system grow and function, Lynch said. “It’s things as simple as certification. EMS is in a crisis now…it’s no different than a hospital or other changes in health care. EMS is changing, too – we’re changing every day. West Virginia has been a model for other agencies across the country, but for the last few years we’ve taken a backseat because we haven’t had the right people in key positions.

Lynch could not be reached for additional comment Tuesday.

Kinnaird, who has left her position as deputy director for Threat Preparedness, said she works closely with OEMS medical director Dr. Michael Mills on policy decisions, and her previous experience with the Center for Threat Preparedness made her familiar with the operations of OEMS.

“My vision for EMS is for it to be the best EMS system in the country, Kinnaird said. “Setting the standard, developing strong stakeholder partnerships, and increasing visibility… we have subject matter experts (and) a team.

She said the Center for Threat Preparedness works a lot with OEMS, so she was familiar with the system.

During the last legislative session, a bill was proposed that would have moved OEMS from the BPH to the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.

Kinnaird was introduced as the new director to EMS county administrators and workers on Tuesday during a statewide meeting in Flatwoods. Gupta noted that EMS personnel voiced several ongoing concerns about the agency during the meeting, including recertification and ongoing education practices, the absence of a full-time director, and a shortage of EMTs in rural areas.

“When I arrived in March of 2014, we had several vacancies in the office – some had been vacant for many months, Kinnaird said. “We have reduced those vacancies by half. We’ve started having monthly staff meetings where the staff can discuss issues and get consistency across our units and staff. We’ve developed a strategic plan, and we’re doing customer service training so we can provide better customer service to the EMS community.

Kinnaird said the office is also working on policy that would allow those with an arrest record to apply for and receive certification and re-certification for EMS.

“We realize people make mistakes, and that something might happen that’s not in your normal behavior, she said. “Recidivism studies have shown that offenders who are successful in not recommitting crimes for seven years are probably sufficiently rehabilitated. Taking that into account, we look back a number of years and consider whether it’s a misdemeanor or a felony, to give folks a chance to prove they can do this work successfully. Kinnaird, who has been with DHHR since 2007, previously served as administrator for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and Chief Executive Officer of Lakin Hospital. Kinnaird has a bachelor’s degree in health care administration from Mary Baldwin College in Stanton, Virginia, and a master’s degree in elder care administration from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Reach Lydia Nuzum at,

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