By Stan Welch
Armed with the final report from the firm of Fitch and Associates concerning the issues facing the county’s emergency medical system, the Anderson County Council held a special called meeting last Thursday (Nov. 17) to receive input from both the public and the various providers of those emergency medical services.
It became quickly apparent that the existing providers are very eager to remain a part of the system. Greg Shore, county coroner as well as the owner/operator of the only for profit ambulance service in the county, began by paying respect to the various squads represented, saying that he was the junior representative in the room, despite MedShore’s thirty years in existence.
“There is a great deal of history and experience in this room, as well as passion for what they do. I would hate to see the baby thrown out with the bath water. Most of these folks want to keep things the way they are basically, but the system is fragmented, and that costs money. It will cost more money to go forward without significant changes. “
Shore said that major changes in health care as well as medical transport are coming down the road, and soon. “Community paramedics are going to be moving into the field of more home care, and less transport to the most expensive points of access to medical care – emergency rooms and hospitals. Transport is going to shift towards other points, such as doctor’s offices and emerg – icare clinics. Hospitals need to come to the table and get involved in this whole discussion.”
Shore said that such an increase in home care would require different certification, but he said that the majority of existing squads could meet those standards without major difficulty. He also raised the issue of centralizing some aspects of the system, such as training and vehicle maintenance in order to cut costs.
Teresa Morgan, Councilwoman Cindy Wilson’s appointee to the EMS Commission, said that most of what the study revealed had been common knowledge for some time. “We haven’t had the funding to implement many of these recommendations. My greatest concern is that the EMS commissioners be kept in the loop. We are your advisors, and a good resource.”
Buddy Durham, of the Pendleton squad, pled his case for keeping the current system with some changes. “I know our squad had some financial problems a few years back, but we have corrected those things. Don’t throw us out because of past problems. We want to be a part of this system. We want to continue to serve our community. “
That refrain was heard over and over in the chamber. Scott Robinson, of the Belton Squad, acknowledged that tough times were ahead, and that serious changes were coming. “We are the second oldest squad in the county. I remember when we got $291.66 a month from the county. But when there was no one else to serve our communities we were here to do it. We want to be here in the future too.”
Dan Durham, a fifteen year veteran of the Pelzer Squad’s board of directors, conceded that there is room for improvement, such as response times and quality of care, but denied that the system is broken. “It is not broken. It clearly needs adjustments and who knows that better than those who actually operate the system? “
He conceded that his squad, which serves the north end of the county with multiple stations, would consider going to twelve shifts as a cost saving method.
He also pointed out that while “MedShore is across the street from AnMed, we are over here sitting on the river. A lot of our folks prefer Greenville Hospital or even Easley. These squads are important to their communities and the communities are important to us. We live there. It would be a shame to throw all that away.”
Agreement with the study was far from universal, but few contested its findings as directly or hotly as Dr. Thomas Kickham, who serves as the system’s quality control overseer. He challenged the study’s frequent reference to “nationally accepted benchmarks, and the various squads’ failure to meet them. “There is no evidence based support for these so called benchmarks. A bunch of you guys who travel together, and speak the same lingo and who work the same areas got together at some convention one weekend and came up with this stuff.”
Dan Durham had earlier read directly from the study which essentially conceded Kickham’s point. Kickham continued to challenge the study. “You basically just throw me under the bus. You say I’m not in the field often enough, getting first hand reports from the EMTs and paramedics. Well, you’re right. But it’s because I see 90 percent of them in the ER where I work. I get first hand reports. It’s just that they come to me.”
“And you criticize me for not compiling reports on certain types of cases, such as strokes and cardiac cases. Once again, there are professionals at the hospital who compile that information for other reasons, so why would we spend time and resources doing the same thing?”
All of the Council members assured the providers that no decisions have been made and that more such meetings will be held before the issues are fully considered.
In a rather unorthodox circumstance, District 3 Councilman -elect Ray Graham sat in with the Council, despite the fact that he won’t be sworn into office until January.