10/19/04 — Duplin paramedics move to intermediate care level

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Duplin paramedics move to intermediate care level

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on October 19, 2004 1:59 PM

KENANSVILLE -- While state inspectors were approving intermediate level emergency care in Duplin County on Monday, the county commissioners were coming under pressure to advance to paramedic level.

The county's EMS has been operating at a basic level. But as more volunteers say they can no longer provide service, the county has been hiring full-time rescuers. More are still needed, as are ambulances, but as of today, county officials say they are providing countywide intermediate-level service.

Duplin County made a 15-year leap forward this morning, said Curtis Brock, director of emergency medical services. The county's EMS stations at Faison and Wallace went on line at 7.

At 7:10 a.m., Brock said, the Warsaw station received the first call for the day. It was a call for advanced life support, which intermediate EMTs can provide, but those at the basic level cannot.

"Most counties around us were functioning at the intermediate level 15 years ago, and we've just come up to where everybody else used to be," Brock said. "The whole county is at 'I' level this morning."

Despite the step up from basic EMS to intermediate and the opening of the county-operated stations at Faison and Wallace, the medical examiner and some residents are calling for the county to hurry up and provide paramedic service. The commissioners have been considering contracting with private companies.

Dr. Hervy Kornegay told the Duplin commissioners Monday that county-run EMS would provide better service than would a private company.

"All of us owe a great debt of gratitude to the volunteers who provided EMS from the 1960s," said Kornegay, who entered the medical field in 1962. But things have changed, he said.

The county commissioners plan to hold a public summit to help them decide what to do. But first, they're awaiting response from requests for proposals sent out Friday to three companies that want to provide paramedic service.

Commissioner Reginald Wells asked Kornegay to give the board time. "We didn't get like this over night," he said. "We need it, but I do think it needs to be studied."

Commissioner Larry Howard said his sister was in a car accident about a week ago that was so serious he doubts she would have survived if it had occurred in Duplin County. She lost her arm. He credited the paramedics with saving her.

He made a motion that the county move toward paramedic service as soon as possible. It died for lack of a second.

Commissioner Chairman L.S. Guy said the board has already gone on record committing to paramedic service as soon as possible.

It could take two or three more years, said Howard, "and we don't need to keep waiting."

"Give it an opportunity to work itself out," said Wells. "It's been coming. We've been reactive. It's time to be proactive. We knew the state would require us to take responsibility, and we waited until the last minute."

Commissioners Arliss Albertson and Zettie Williams said they don't know what to do. Ms. Williams wanted to freeze everything having to do with EMS.

County Manager Fred Eldridge said three stations are already on line, and within 30 days he expects to have the other three county stations on line.

Meanwhile, Beaulaville's volunteers have told the county they're quitting after Dec. 1.

Brock said this morning he has to hire people to cover that area as required by the state.