09/30/04 — Duplin EMS opens headquarters

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Duplin EMS opens headquarters

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on September 30, 2004 2:02 PM

KENANSVILLE -- Duplin County Emergency Medical Services has moved into its new office and is working to provide professional ambulance service throughout the county.

The county is moving from volunteer-run EMS to a paid staff due a drop in the number of volunteers.

EMS Director Curtis Brock said businesses in the area have stepped up to help get the new offices ready.

"Overall, the public support has been great," Brock said. "They can see commissioners are trying to provide the same service to people in Duplin as the rest of the citizens in North Carolina."

He and the staff talked to people in the surrounding counties and found several areas where they could improve. One was consolidation of the billing and collections.

Before the move, EMS would enter the call into the county's computer system, and the finance office would send out the bills.

When the transition is finished, each shift supervisor will enter the call into the computer, and the bills will go out of the same office.

Brock said he has also finished the first phase of interviews to fill EMT-Intermediate positions. The goal is to be at the EMT-Intermediate level at some point during the month of October.

The ultimate goal is to go to the paramedic level, but Brock said the county wants to do that as economically as possible. He said he and the staff are researching several options to find a way to do it with a minimum burden on the taxpayers.

He wants to hire 15 Intermediates in the first phase to man three 24-hour ambulances. Once those trucks are in place, he wants to hire 18 more to put three more county-run trucks on the road.

The county's EMS plan has been submitted to the state for approval. Duplin has only one ambulance going 24-hours a day, seven days a week. It's the Kenansville-Warsaw truck, said Brock.

The ones in Faison and Wallace cover Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. and 24 hours on the weekends. The volunteers had told the county they could not answer the first calls on the weekends any more.

New Quick Response Vehicles, or QRVs, are almost ready to be placed in service for Brock and Training Officer Jeremy Hill and the shift supervisors. The state will inspect them in October when the county goes to intermediate level.

Each is equipped with all of the supplies that are on an ambulance. The only difference is they can't take somebody to the hospital. But until the ambulance arrives, Brock, Hill and the shift supervisors can provide all the treatment that those on the ambulance can.

These vehicles are already being used in the surrounding counties, said Brock. "We're just trying to get up to the level where they are."

Brock said that the transformation has come with growing pains for some Duplin County residents.

At recent county commissioner meetings, residents questioned the cost of going to a paid staff.

Brock helped Wayne County work through its transition last year, and before that, in Harnett County. He recalls that those counties had similar complaints in the beginning.

Some have questioned how the paid and volunteer staff will work together. A "five-minute rule" has been established. Some volunteers have said they need more than five minutes.

Brock said the county was having trouble with calls not being answered fast enough. The county implemented a policy that if a volunteer truck wasn't en route to a call within five minutes, the county would dispatch one of its paid crews.

"Our paid crews have to be en route in one minute from the time of dispatch," Brock said. "We were concerned, because in some instances, it was taking up to 10 minutes to get the (volunteer) truck en route to the scene. It was a problem."

He said the county is just trying to increase survival rate for heart attack and stroke patients. The American Heart Association recommends an eight- to 10-minute response time.

"We're not trying to dictate anything," said Brock. "We're just trying to get help to the patient in a timely manner. The brain is made out of tissue, and in an emergency situation like a stroke, time is tissue. Also, the heart is made out of muscle, and in a cardiac arrest, minutes are muscle. Once that tissue or muscle is damaged, you can't repair it."

He said the five-minute rule is a standard operating guideline passed down by the state. The guidelines that the counties have to follow are in a book as thick as the Bible, he said, and a lot of people are not aware that the state is requiring the counties to go by them.

"These issues are not just Duplin County issues," said Brock. "They're issues that every county in the state has experienced. We just happen to be one of the last ones to go through the transition."

Brock said, though, that the transition has been helped by several local businesses:

*Southern Bank in Mount Olive donated the office furniture in the new EMS office at 114 E. Hill St. in Kenansville.

*Johnson Furniture in Wallace donated the beds and recliners at the county's EMS stations. Carolina Desk and Locker in Calypso donated the lockers in the stations.

*Charla's Signs in the Rones Chapel of Duplin County put the letters on all the trucks, donating the material and labor.