Board hears EMS plansPublished 5:14pm Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Moving Beaufort County’s EMS program to the paramedic level could result in some existing EMS stations in the county being closed to provide a more-efficient delivery of EMS coverage throughout the county, according to Curtis Avery, the county’s fire marshal.
Avery discussed the county’s EMS program, including upgrading to the paramedic level, during the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners’ two-day retreat in February. Avery discussed the county’s EMS program because John Pack, the county’s director of emergency services, could not attend the retreat. Pack has been working on improving the county’s EMS program.
Avery said the impending closure of Vidant Pungo Hospital in Belhaven has accelerated talk about taking the county’s EMS program to the paramedic level throughout as much of the county as possible, if not the entire county.
There are eight EMS squads in Beaufort County. The squads serving Aurora, Broad Creek, Chocowinity and Washington have paid and volunteer EMTs. The Community and Pinetown squads are staffed by volunteers. The White Oak squad, serving the Belhaven-Pantego area, is a paid squad.
PotashCorp-Aurora has its own EMS squad that serves the PotashCorp complex. It does provide, upon request, back-up EMS coverage in emergencies.
Avery said that small population areas in the county make the placement of EMS stations a challenge. He noted that on the south side of the Pamlico River, areas centrally located between Aurora and Chocowinity experience longer response times when EMS units are dispatched. On the north side of the river, a relocation of EMS stations may be needed to better serve communities and to “average out” call volumes. Doing that is challenging because of road placement, Avery said.
Avery discussed four main points concerning the need for paramedics in the county. They include the following:
• Highest level of emergency and medical care available in the field within North Carolina;
• Able to start many of the same treatments in the field as would be available in an emergency room;
• Will increase the chance of a person surviving a heart attack;
• In general, will increase chances of a person surviving many medical- and trauma-related problems.
Avery said paramedics would ensure the highest level of care is provided for patients while being transported to a hospital.
Among the recommendations presented by Avery related to developing a five-year plan are appointing an EMS planning committee, taking all squads to at least the EMT intermediate level, look at relocating EMS stations, submit a plan for future locations of paramedic squads in the county and the possible closing of EMS stations.
“That’s going to create some problems,” said Commissioner Ed Booth about the closing of EMS stations.
“Your chance of survival should not be tied to the geography of your location,” Commissioner Robert Belcher said.