EMS updates are needed

Published 8:26 pm Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The decision to update Beaufort County’s emergency medical system oversight ordinance is long overdue and necessary, considering the current ordinance was adopted in 1983 and there have been significant changes in EMS protocols and substantial advances in emergency medicine in the past 30 years.

Proposed changes to the ordinance will be the subject of a public hearing at the Feb. 3 meeting of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners.

John Pack, Beaufort County’s emergency-services manager, understands the need for an updated EMS policy — so much so that he helped draft the proposed changes.

“EMS has changed a lot in 10 years, “Pack told the board at its Jan. 6 meeting. “So, therefore our requirement to provide oversight is both for administrative and medical. The medical is handled through the appointment of the medical director. She runs a peer review and follows specific medical procedures. Other than my office and the county manager, we’ve not had any input to the administrative way, the way things are handled each day dealing with both emergency and nonemergency transports. So, I consider this an update of the existing ordinance, although the reality is it replaces most of the existing one. It provides the oversight the Office of N.C. Medical Services is looking for us to provide for the EMS system,” Pack told the commissioners Jan. 6.

As for its EMS program, the county must seriously consider moving that program to a paramedic level. That will cost money. There’s no doubt about that. But the money required to reach the paramedic level throughout the county should be viewed as an investment in the county’s quality of life — and in providing county residents the level of EMS coverage they deserve.

And with the closing of Vidant Pungo Hospital in Belhaven looming, having paramedic-level EMS coverage in the Belhaven area of the county seems to be the prudent course to take when it comes to enhancing EMS coverage in that area of the county.

It’s time to bring the county into compliance with current state EMS guidelines and move toward paramedic-level EMS coverage in all of Beaufort County.