07/06/06 — Emergency services getting look in Duplin

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Emergency services getting look in Duplin

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on July 6, 2006 1:49 PM

KENANSVILLE -- Duplin commissioners have the county's emergency services director looking for the best way to provide emergency services to residents.

Emergency Services Director Craig Forlines said EMS is covering the county's needs well now, and he would not make any recommendations for change.

Even though Duplin is currently short 11 emergency medical technicians, the county is still answering all the calls, with some help from administrative people like himself, training officer Jeremy Hill and other supervisors, Forlines said. The county has no emergency medical services director after the recent resignation of former chief Curtis Brock.

An investigation is currently under way to determine if Brock and other county officials behaved improperly with regard to the county's EMS contracts.

Duplin County's new budget includes money to replace the 11 positions, and Forlines told commissioners that with those hires, the department should be back to normal.

Forlines met recently with Wayne County Manager Lee Smith, Emergency Services Director Joe Gurley and other officials to see how Wayne handles its calls.

Wayne has 550 square miles and answers 16,500 emergency calls a year. Duplin has 819 square miles and answers 6,300 calls a year. Wayne has three times the call volume as Duplin, Forlines said. With a population of 150,000 in Wayne and 50,000 in Duplin, both counties answer an average of one call for every nine people who live there.

Wayne has nine EMS sites. Duplin has eight.

Forlines said 17 percent of the calls answered in Wayne County are Medicaid and Medicare calls, and 26 percent of the calls in Duplin are Medicaid and Medicare calls. About one percent of the Wayne EMS patients are uninsured, and about 50 percent of the EMS patients in Duplin are uninsured.

Duplin EMS sends out its own bills and does its own collections, while Wayne County uses a third party. Duplin's in-house costs are about $60,000 a year. Wayne's third party charges 10 percent of collections, and with Duplin's $1.2 million in collections for the past fiscal year, that would mean it would cost $123,000 for Duplin to pay a third party to handle collections.

Forlines said the Wayne officials told his group it's well worth the cost to have paramedic level care in Wayne County. He said it costs Wayne County a little more to operate and right now, "we're doing a good job of managing what we have internally."

He will give a report during the July 17 commissioners' meeting on research he has done into forming public-private partnerships that would allow volunteer groups like Magnolia to answer EMS calls. The Magnolia group was disbanded last year because of a shortage of volunteers.