Duplin begins paying emergency medical technicians
By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on June 4, 2004 2:00 PM
KENANSVILLE -- Duplin County has started paying emergency medical technicians to provide 24-hour coverage seven days a week.
The paid service is only in Warsaw and Kenansville at this point, but EMS Supervisor Jimmy Pate says countywide paid service is in the proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins next month.
The proposal is to have eight units in service to provide service 24 hours a day, Pate says. "We'll have to in the next 12 months," said Pate, who doesn't know how quickly that will happen. The county may have to phase them in a couple of units at a time.
The daytime schedule has changed from eight hours a day to 12 hours, and the emergency medical technicians are working 60 hours a week. Pate says the overtime expense is getting high.
Both towns had volunteer EMS service until they closed the squads for lack of people to work nights and weekends. Warsaw closed last year, then Kenansville shut down on April 1.
The county contracted with Johnston Ambulance Service to provide the service nights and weekends when Warsaw closed.
"We knew at that time we'd eventually have to go to 24-hour service," said Pate. "When Kenansville decided to close down, we went to work hiring four more people."
County maintenance workers converted part of the emergency services office in Kenansville to provide sleeping quarters and a day room. The work was finished by May 1, when the county started providing 24-hour coverage in the two towns.
Since then, he said, two other squads have complained about having trouble finding enough volunteers to provide coverage nights and weekends. He would not say which ones.
"The other four rescue squads are holding their own," he said. "But they're not getting any new people. A lot are getting ready to retire out.
"People now who take the EMT classes are looking for a job. There's not a lot of them who want to ride all day and then volunteer that night."
The county is going to need more sleeping quarters when the paid service becomes countywide, he said. All but two of the squads, Wallace and Magnolia, are operating out of fire stations, and most fire stations do not have sleeping quarters.
He said it will help if more of the fire departments will begin providing first responders. Two of them, Calypso and Oak Wolf, already provide first responders to all calls. Wallace provides them to traffic accidents. The county's paid Basic Life Support Team usually arrives on the scene of accidents before the ambulance does, he said.
Pate said the county wants to provide service at the paramedic level. He said it would take about a year at the most if the county hired all new paramedics, but that's not going to happen.
The basic level EMTs who are with the county will continue at their level until they upgrade. "They can stay 'basic' if they want to," says Pate, "but I think most will be interested in upgrading to the intermediate level or the paramedic level."
Duplin has 10 EMTs certified at the intermediate level. All but two of them are working at the basic level. Pleasant Grove is the only intermediate-certified squad in the county.
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