01/21/04 — Duplin considers creating county EMS

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Duplin considers creating county EMS

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on January 21, 2004 2:02 PM

KENANSVILLE -- The Duplin County commissioners were surprised Tuesday to learn that all of the members of the volunteer Kenansville EMS squad planned to resign next month.

This prompted the commissioners to add a new item to the agenda: to start creating a countywide emergency medical services system. The commissioners were told the volunteers would quit on Feb. 14.

The new paid squad at Kenansville will have four full-time EMS workers and four part-timers. The new employees will help the two county emergency workers who are already covering Warsaw. The Kenansville squad said it didn't have enough volunteers to maintain the level of service required.

Warsaw had a similar situation occur. It had an all-volunteer squad, but the county had to take over daytime coverage and hired Johnston Ambulance Service to answer the calls at night and on weekends.

County Manager Fred Eldridge said he has talked to officials in Wayne County about the countywide EMS they formed. The commissioners will meet with the captains of the squads in Duplin County to find out what they want to do.

Currently the county's EMS workers are at the basic EMT level. There is also an intermediate level, and the highest, which is paramedic. Wayne County has gone to a paramedic-level service, which means the workers can provide more patient care in the ambulance.

One thing that bothers Eldridge is Duplin is one of three counties in the state that is still just at the basic level. "It doesn't make sense to make the step to intermediate level," he said.

Eldridge suggested creating squads with six full-time paramedics and three shift supervisors each, covering their areas 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Each of the three shifts would rotate 24 hours on duty.

Eldridge said it would take 20 full-time paramedics and about 16 full-time intermediates. Each squad would need some part-timers. The county would also need an operations officer and a training officer.

Benefits and labor would cost about $1.9 million. Nine ambulances would each be equipped with paramedic supplies like heart monitors and debribulators. The equipment would be on each vehicle. Each shift supervisor would have them. Each trainer would have them, and some would be for backup. Uniforms would cost about $18,000.

Eldridge said it would cost a total of almost $3 million to become an all-paid force.

The basic EMTs are billing about $250,000 a year. A paramedic force would bring the billing closer to $400,000 or $500,000, depending on the skill level needed in each situation. Eldridge said he anticipates a 25 percent increase in revenues.

Commissioner Larry Howard suggested making the change one squad at a time the way Wayne County did.