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24/72 shift helps S.C. EMS put more ambulances in service

Aiken County EMS says data since shift change shows 7 days with no “status zero” incidents, times when ambulances were not available


Aiken County Department of Emergency Services/Facebook

By Dede Biles
Aiken Standard

AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. — Recent statistics show that there have been improvements in the Aiken County Emergency Medical Services Department’s ability to provide assistance.

During the first 15 days of this month, the county had no fewer than 10 of its ambulances staffed and available on nine days, according to information distributed by County Administrator Clay Killian to County Council’s Judicial and Public Safety Committee on Tuesday at the Aiken County Government Center.

Nine ambulances were staffed and available on four days, and 11 were staffed and available on two days, according to EMS Department records.

“We haven’t had below nine in a while,” said Killian, who recalled times in the recent past when “we were down to six or seven a lot and on real rare occasions we had only five.”

One ambulance was available from Aiken Rescue Inc. to help the county respond to emergencies on five of the first 15 days in May.

Also included in Killian’s statistics were the numbers for status zero and calls pending.

There were 13 incidents of status zero May 1-14, and on 13 occasions during that time there were calls pending.

On seven days, however, there were no incidents of status zero and no occasions when there were calls pending.

“Status zero is when every truck (ambulance) is on a call, and while they’re all tied up, we don’t get any other calls for service,” Killian has told the Aiken Standard previously. “If we get a call for service and they’re all tied up, that call becomes a pending call.”

The May numbers are encouraging when compared to January, for example. Back then, there were 102 incidents of status zero and on 192 occasions, there were calls pending.

Earlier this month, County Council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing Killian to begin the transition from 24 hours on/48 hours off schedule to 24 hours on/72 hours off shift for EMS personnel no later than May 12.

Killian said the change took place officially on May 12. It is scheduled to remain in place through June 30 and is being funded by the 2022-2023 fiscal year budget underruns.

For the switch to be in effect beyond then, County Council must approve the fiscal year 2023-2024 financial plan that includes the extra money needed because a 24/72 schedule requires a larger staff than a 24/48 shift.

Earlier this year, the EMS Department began recruiting new workers based on the possibility that County Council would authorize the change to 24/72.

That has resulted in a hiring surge that has provided more staffing for ambulances, Killian said.

The 2023-2024 fiscal year will begin July 1.

(c)2023 the Aiken Standard (Aiken, S.C.)
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