Future of Williamston EMS, County EMS being considered


By Stan Welch

As questions continue to arise about the status of the Williamston EMS squad, questions about the future of EMS operations across the county are also being asked. But Medshore owner and operator Greg Shore and his staff are preparing a proposal for a county wide EMS system to be presented to the County Council in the coming months.

Shore, the first certified EMT in the state of South Carolina, owns the private ambulance and medical care provider Medshore. That company has taken over the operations and responsibilities of the Williamston unit, after SLED began investigating various aspects of the unit’s operations and management.

The latest setback for the squad was the repossession of four of its ambulances.

Those ambulances, three Ford gasoline models, and one Chevrolet diesel model, are sitting in the parking lot of the First Citizens Bank on Highway 81 in Anderson. They are not yet for sale, according to bank officials. A company in Columbia which specializes in such matters is determining the value of the ambulances before they are made available.

Shore said that his company is not interested in buying the Williamston rolling stock, but is considering the purchase of various medical equipment from the squad.

But Shore says that his company taking over the Williamston area is just a stop gap measure. “The emergency medical services business is changing, and all the providers need to adapt and adjust. I believe that the final result will have to eventually be a county wide EMS system. My staff and I are working on a plan to present first to all the shareholders in the emergency response arena – rescue squads, hospitals, EMTs, anyone involved in providing these services.”

Shore says he has always favored a countywide system, but sees a renewed need for it due to changes in the health care system. “Obama care has been a challenge for all of us in the emergency field. So have the changes to Medicare and Medicaid. I think these changes will be good for providers in the long run. Non-emergent transport trips will be pre-approved, which means units won’t face being denied payment for services they have already performed.”

Shore has met with at least one member of the Anderson County EMS board of directors, and is meeting with AnMed representatives this week also. One topic will be the Greenville Hospital System’s assumption of the operation of the county wide EMS system in Greenville. That acquisition was strenuously opposed by St. Francis Bon Secours, Greenville’s other major hospital.

Shore, whose company has served AnMed for many years, is hoping to also become more closely affiliated with St. Francis, while establishing an even closer working relationship with AnMed. Asked point blank if patient concerns about being able to choose one’s hospital under the proposed system are valid, Shore said that every patient should always have the right to choose their medical care provider.

“All three of the hospitals in our area are certified as level one trauma centers, so the level of care available wouldn’t be a factor. The patient’s right to choose is paramount as far as I am concerned.”

Shore provided some insight into the nature of the proposal being prepared for presentation. “I would foresee the transformation of all the free standing, not for profit squads into an ESOP, or employee owned, format. The employees would be invested in the company and would be able to sell their holdings back upon retirement. “

Shore also stated that of all the Williamston EMS employees, all but three had been absorbed by Medshore. “Two went to different squads and one decided to take a job in another field. But we brought everyone else aboard, including former Williamston chief Joe Barr, who will be working as an EMT in our Greenwood station. We also let each employee maintain and transfer their seniority to their new situation. Most employees got raises, except for those already above our pay scale for their position. In that case, they retained the higher rate of pay.”

Shore said the final proposal should be ready in another three weeks, when he and his staff will begin meeting with various squads and other shareholders to present the plan to them. Eventually Shore says the plan will be presented to the County Council.

Meanwhile, Anderson County issued a request for proposals (RFP) this week, a preliminary step in selecting and hiring a consultant to study the emergency services system in the county and make recommendations to the Council.

County Administrator Rusty Burns said that once the RFPs are returned, which could take up to thirty days, several candidates will be interviewed. The Council will then vote to see who is awarded the contract. The length of time involved in that study is not yet known.

Burns made it clear that the process will not be circumvented in any way by Shore’s activities.