SC county to consider ending ambulance service's contract due to response time concerns
A firefighter spoke to the Bamberg County council Monday about incidents where he says MedShore Ambulance Services lagged in its response
The Times and Democrat, Orangeburg, S.C.
BAMBERG, S.C. — Bamberg County is preparing to examine ambulance response times after some council members raised questions Monday about the handling of "life or death" situations.
Councilman Phil Myers said the emergency response times by MedShore Ambulance Services, the county's ambulance service, need to be looked at.
"I've got a book made pretty much of all the problems we're having," Myers said. He is a volunteer firefighter.
County Administrator Preston said, "Let's get that, and let's get our public safety committee to sit down with MedShore and go through those. Let's get some answers."
Council agreed that a committee meeting is needed. Committee members include Myers and council members Clint Carter and Spencer Donaldson.
Preston said on Thursday that a meeting will be set for the week of March 22.
Council Chairman Larry Haynes said he does know if the committee will discuss dropping the county's contract with MedShore, which provides its ambulance services.
"There's a lot of questions that have got to be answered. Once these questions are answered, I'm sure we'll go from there. There's definitely got to be some questions answered," Haynes said.
During Monday's meeting, Myers shared stories of the problems he referenced.
"Sunday morning, we had a fire call when I got back from work. I had time to get dressed and get to the patient's house before MedShore even showed up, and MedShore said they were right there at the Hooten Black House," Myers said.
"It was a patient that needed help ... in getting up off the floor. We got her up in her wheelchair way before they even got there. We were outside talking by the time they got there, and we asked where they were at. Pretty much they said, 'Well, we're old. We can't make it down the stairs at the Hooten Black House that fast ...'" he said.
Councilwoman Sharon Hammond asked how many trucks were in the county.
Preston said there are two, one stationed in Denmark and the other in Bamberg.
He said the county will be meeting with Medshore, "to try to figure out a way to get that third unit here so that we can base that one out of Ehrhardt."
Myers and Hammond said that they thought the county's contract with Medshore called for three trucks. Hammond said two is not enough.
She had a story of her own, saying she had to wait for a long period of time before an ambulance responded to her Bridge Street home in Bamberg where her elderly mother suffered a stroke.
Preston said Medshore provides, "a monthly financial report, and I'll be more than happy to share that with you. You can kind of see what their collections are in the county."
Hammond said, "You know, I'm not concerned about their collections. I'm concerned about them getting to the citizens of this county in a timely manner in a life or death situation. The other night at my house, I wouldn't want that on anyone else, believe me."
"Absolutely," Preston said.
Myers said, "You need a truck in Ehrhardt close by because Denmark's too far from Ehrhardt, and Bamberg's too far from Ehrhardt, I think. I may be wrong, but I feel like something needs to be done down there for those people of Ehrhardt who have calls. I know they're running fire trucks to death down there."
During a November council meeting, Hammond wanted to make sure that all of the dispatchers in Bamberg County have access to MedShore's Automatic Vehicle Locator system. They still do not have access.
At the time, MedShore Ambulance Services Capt. Phil Clarke stated that the ambulance service was, "working through that, but the goal is to give the dispatchers in Bamberg access to know where the trucks are all the time."
Hammond said Monday, "Dispatch should know where everyone is. They should be able to see the vehicle on their screen, when it moves, where it is. So if they're going in the wrong direction, they're going to the wrong address, they can at least tell them. They're messing with lives."
Myers said, "We need to get everybody together to talk about this thing. I know a lot of times a truck had to come out of Hilda for them, and there would be one truck in Bamberg County at the time."
He continued, "We had a heart attack patient right around Christmastime, 29 minutes to get a truck to them. We had the helicopter on the ground, and we were fixing to transport them across the road where we had landed when they showed up.
"Then they turned around and sent him a bill — quite a large bill — for taking him 75 yards. They were more concerned how the helicopter got there before they got there, which I know how the helicopter got there. The police went ahead and made the call. ... We've got to get something done with this."
"When is the contract up?" Hammond asked.
"It's an annual contract. We can end it with an appropriate notice," Preston said.
"Good," Hammond said.
The nonprofit Bamberg Rescue Squad Inc. handled EMS calls in the county until Oct. 1, 2019, when the county switched to Anderson-based Medshore Ambulance.
(c)2021 The Times and Democrat (Orangeburg, S.C.)