05/23/07 — Officials, citizens protest plan to cut EMS service

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Officials, citizens protest plan to cut EMS service

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on May 23, 2007 1:45 PM

KENANSVILLE -- More than 100 emergency medical personnel and county residents gathered Monday at a meeting of the Duplin County Board of Commissioners to protest cutbacks in ambulance service ordered by the commissioners.

Duplin currently has eight ambulances that cover the 818-square-mile county.

Each ambulance is staffed by paramedics who can provide emergency treatment and life-support measures in addition to transportation.

Commissioners have said they want to reduce the number of full-service ambulances to five, replacing ambulances now stationed at Chinquapin and Pleasant Grove with Quick Response Vehicles, which would provide reduced treatment options at the scene of the emergency.

The move is designed to save money.

As scheduled, Medic unit 3, which is stationed in Chin-quapin, would be replaced with a Quick Response Vehicle, or QRV, on June 1. A QRV also would replace Medic unit 8, which is stationed in Kenansville, during nighttime hours. The next change would occur next January when a QRV replaces Medic unit 6, which is stationed in Pleasant Grove.

But the changes could cost lives, emergency officials and some residents warned. They asked commissioners to reconsider their decision.

A QRV is staffed by a single paramedic, who is not permitted to provide transportation. If transportation is needed, the paramedic would have to call for an ambulance. That could be as much as 15 miles away, said Emmett Stroud II.

"This will cost people's lives," Stroud said.

Thurman Herring agreed.

"Any delay in the field is dangerous. This isn't about a few people. This is about everybody in Duplin. Wherever you live, you will need emergency care," Herring said.

Scott Rouse described how paramedics saved his life when he suffered an allergic reaction to a medicine. Had a Quick Response Vehicle answered the call to his home instead of an ambulance, he might not have survived, he said.

The commissioners approved a motion to cut back on service earlier this month, calling it a decision that would save taxpayer's money. The commissioners charged county Manager Mike Aldridge earlier this year with reducing the county's property tax rate from its current level of 80.5 cents to 79 cents per $100 worth of property.

Many of those who spoke Monday said they understand the county's financial situation, but opposed cutting back on a service that could mean the difference between life and death for a Duplin resident.

"Do you suggest we raise taxes?" Commission Chairman David Fussell asked.

"I suggest we do whatever it takes," Herring replied to an auditorium of applause.

Paula Ivey, a nurse and volunteer paramedic for nearly 30 years, said the commissioners' decision affects every resident and any other person who travels to Duplin County.

"We have eight ambulances to cover 818 square miles. Anything less is not the answer," she said.

Commissioners made no indication that they plan to reconsider their decision.