Aiken County Council Discusses Possible Solutions to Emergency Medical Services Issues | Local News

Aiken County Emergency Medical Services issues and possible solutions were hot topics Tuesday at the Aiken County Government Center.

Discussions began at the Aiken County Council’s Court and Public Safety Committee meeting, and continued later at a county council executive session.

Following these discussions, County Administrator Clay Killian said that in the short term the county will try to resolve the issues that have prevented new contracts from being signed with Gold Cross EMS and SouthStar EMS.

These Georgia-based private companies provide supplemental ambulance services in Aiken County. Currently, they operate here on a monthly basis.

“There are sticking points on both sides, some of which we cannot address,” Killian said. “We’re going to ask them to sit face to face and not just keep sending paper back and forth. And we will try to do it as soon as possible.

In 2021, Gold Cross and SouthStar announced that an agreement had been reached for SouthStar to “join the Gold Cross family” early this year.

As part of the deal, existing management teams and operations were expected to remain in place, according to a press release.

At Tuesday’s JPS committee meeting, Councilor Kelley Mobley expressed concern that bureaucracy and political disagreements with Gold Cross and SouthStar were negatively impacting EMS services at the local level.

On numerous occasions in August, ambulances were unavailable to assist Aiken County residents.

There were 71 status zero incidents and 161 pending appeals.

“Status zero is when every truck responds to a call, and while they’re all standing still, we don’t get any other service calls,” Killian told Aiken Standard. “If we receive a service call and they are all busy, that call becomes call waiting.”

In the first 19 days of September, there were 37 status zero incidents and 33 pending calls.

Killian and other county officials said hiring and retaining emergency medical technicians and paramedics are the biggest local challenges.

Also at the JPS meeting, County Council Chairman Gary Bunker suggested three strategies the county could pursue.

The first was to raise the wages of EMS workers again after a series of increases in recent years.

“Right now, we’re generally competitive (compared to the salary offered by other EMS providers in the area),” Bunker said. “I don’t just compete. I want to be dominant. In other words, I want the playing field to lean toward Aiken County.

The second strategy was to increase the number of county-staffed ambulances from 10 (when enough workers are available) to 12.

Aiken County EMS Employees Receive State Recognition for Their Efforts

And the third was to change the shift schedule from 24 hours and 48 hours off to 24 hours and 72 hours off.

“I’ve discussed the 24/72 shift with other (EMS) managers across the state who have been there, and it has made a difference in their service,” said County EMS manager Chris DeLoach. ‘Aiken. “I hear people say if we had a 24/72 they would come here. We did an internal survey of the schedules and 24/72 was definitely what everyone would like.

DeLoach told the JPS committee that it would be helpful if some local dispatchers received the necessary training to qualify as emergency medical dispatchers.

“When you call, there’s a certain line of questions so they can better determine the nature of your emergency and give our teams a better idea of ​​what type of call they’re going to,” DeLoach later explained. “It would allow us to prioritize calls so we could tell the difference between someone who has leg pain for three weeks and someone who has a cardiac event.”

In addition, DeLoach told the JPS committee that there were 11 candidates for a basic emergency medical technician class that the county will hold in conjunction with the South Carolina Fire Academy beginning in October.

“We will continue our aggressive recruiting and continue to do everything we can to make it (Aiken County) an attractive place to come to work,” Killian told the Aiken Standard.

Earlier this year, county officials believed significant progress had been made in resolving past issues with EMS.

Aiken County Council Committee hears of huge turnaround in EMS department

There were no status zero incidents or pending appeals in February and March.

“The Judiciary and Public Safety Committee has now had the opportunity to have a discussion of various options going forward,” Bunker said Tuesday. “That was sort of the initial conversation. I expect that in the coming month, we’ll probably start publishing more robust metrics.

The county council also held its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday. All nine members were present or participated by telephone.