By Stan Welch
According to various sources, the rescue squads and EMS units that filed a complaint about the awarding of the latest contract for EMS services and the way it was handled, will continue the appeal process. The units plan to present a written appeal to Anderson County procurement director Robert Carroll.
District Three County Councilman Ray Graham is chairman of the public safety committee, which met on July 6, and voted to recommend a fundamental change in the way the county provides emergency medical response. That change would essentially replace the existing system with Priority Ambulance Services, creating a single provider system for the first time in the county’s history.
Medshore, the private ambulance service founded in 1976, and owned and operated by county coroner Greg Shore, was purchased, at least in part, within the last two years by Priority Ambulance. Priority was founded in 2014 and now boasts of employing 3400 paramedics and EMTs, and deploying 610 ambulances across thirteen states, according to their website. Priority/Medshore now provides services in 17 counties in South Carolina as well as for several hospitals and medical facilities in the Midlands of South Carolina, as well as having provided 911 response for Bamberg and Chesterfield counties.
The proposal, as approved by the public safety committee by a vote of 2-1, would shift significantly towards the use of quick response vehicles, or QRVs. The county currently deploys three QRVs, which are manned by a paramedic but cannot transport patients, due to their setup and lack of advanced life support equipment. Their purpose is to get a trained paramedic to a scene quickly to begin treatment of the patient. The three QRVs currently in use are in somewhat remote areas that are not closely served by ambulances. An ambulance is also dispatched in case transport to a hospital is needed.
Under the new plan, an additional eleven QRVs will be used, as well as 17 ambulances, or trucks, compared to 16.5 trucks previously. A bullet point summary prepared by Don McCown, chief investigator for the county coroner and current EMS coordinator Don McCown, states that the change “ essentially doubles the EMS response capabilities in the county. There will be no reduction in services.” Somewhat incongruously, he also claims that 95% of emergency calls can be handled by EMTs. Several squad chiefs questioned the need for such a shift in n the process if it satisfies 95% of the public’s needs as it is currently.
Several squad chiefs dispute the claim that services will not be reduced, arguing that the requests for proposals, or RFPs, sought during the bid process, were misleading. Central to the challenge is the issue of a conflict of interest, although it also lists the allegations that the bid was non-responsive to the request for proposals (RFP); that it is contrary to the terms of the RFP; and that it does not represent the best value the county and its people. Germane to the conflict of interest is the fact that Medshore founder, and current shareholder in Priority Ambulance, Greg Shore is an employee of the county. He has served as coroner for more than a decade, while also operating Medshore Ambulance.
At the July 20 meeting when the plan was presented to the full council for a vote, hundreds of EMS personnel and supporters were on hand to oppose the proposal. Several squads had already presented a written complaint, citing the issues mentioned above.
Several council members, including Graham, sought to table or delay a vote on the motion until some of the issues could be addressed, but the majority of four other members defeated those efforts and then voted en bloc to award the contract to Priority.
By Stan Welch