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S.C. island residents worry over ferry service for EMS

Beaufort County officials requested bids for transport service from Daufuskie Island to Hilton Head


Beaufort County Emergency Medical Services/Facebook

By Mary Dimitrov
The Island Packet

BEAUFORT COUNTY, N.C. — Since Melissa Davis moved to Daufuskie Island in 2005 she has needed emergency medical services to transport her to Hilton Head twice.

Each time she trusted that the Haig Point boat would get her across Calibogue Sound and to a Hilton Head hospital quickly and safely. And they did. “They don’t waste any time getting to that hospital,” she said.

Both incidents were unexpected. Once she fell and broke her back, and another time a gallbladder attack put her in so much pain she couldn’t stand up. The Daufuskie Island EMS picked her up from her home, and drove her to the Haig Point embarkation where she rode the boat to Harbour Town. EMS transport was waiting there to pick her up.

Davis is not the first, nor will she be the last Daufuskie Island resident who will need potentially life-saving EMS transport services from the hospital-less island. She is one of hundreds of Daufuskie Island residents, not to mention the thousands of tourists, who rely on the service to keep them safe and alive.

Now, their lifeline might be switching up.

On Monday Beaufort County put out a solicitation for EMS services from Daufuskie Island to Hilton Head, possibly shifting away from Haig Point, which provided the services for the past seven years in tandem with the public ferry contract, and worrying residents that the county will select Lowcountry Ferry as the contractor. Lowcountry Ferry took over the public ferry service in January and since then disabled passengers have had issues riding the ferry, a rider fell in the water while embarking, and residents said there is lower-level service at higher prices.

“Please don’t let Lowcountry Ferry get it,” Davis said. “If they go with a new provider that doesn’t get us to that hospital, we will die.”

Both Haig Point and Lowcountry Ferry are on the list of 10 vendors who accessed the solicitation documents. The solicitation calls for 24-hour, year-round emergency medivac services from Daufuskie Island to Hilton Head Island to support the EMS, coroner, and fire department services, and connect land-based ambulance transports.

Currently, Haig Point is providing those services, according to a March interview with CEO Adam Martin. He said that the county was negotiating a separate contract with Beaufort County that wasn’t yet finalized. Martin was unavailable for immediate comment by phone call and email Tuesday morning

County Council Chairman Joseph Passiment said that the contract Martin referenced is short-term and the long-term contract must go out to public bid.

“This has nothing to do with the Daufuskie Island ferry,” he said. “This is separate and apart from the Daufuskie Island ferry.”

Passiment recommended The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette contact county administration for details on the short-term contract with Haig Point and the solicitation for the long-term contract.

County spokesperson Hannah Nichols was unavailable for immediate comment by phone call and text Tuesday morning.

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