EMS adding prime time ambulance to help rising call volume

EMS adding prime time ambulance to help rising call volume

Dorchester County residents can expect to soon receive aid from a new EMS prime-time unit, which will help with the area’s increasing call volume.

During its meeting Monday in St. George, County Council approved transferring  nearly $50,000 in capital fund savings to operate the unit and hire four new full-time EMS employees, two paramedic crew chiefs and two basic EMTs to staff the prime-time Medic 9 ambulance.

The unit won’t go live until all four positions have been filled, said county officials.

EMS Director Doug Warren said it’s been a decade since the agency last added a unit in response to call volume. That was March 2008, and emergency calls have risen 55 percent when comparing annual call volume from 2008 and last year. The agency currently responds to 55 calls per day, Warren said.

Council praised the agency’s work ethic.

“They do a great job, and we’re very proud of them,” said Council Chairman Jay Byars.

The new prime-time unit will operate daily between noon and midnight, which are “peak hours,” said County Spokesperson Tiffany Norton. The unit will start its shift in the Summerville / North Charleston area but move throughout the day to the highest call volume area, which can be anywhere in the county, according to Norton.

“The addition of this prime time unit will significantly enhance our ability to respond to the needs of our growing community,” Warren said.

Norton said EMS already operates one other prime time unit, in addition to seven 24/7 ambulances.

The county saved the money for the additional ambulance by housing EMS Medic 2 at the agency’s Ladson Road station instead of building a new facility.

However, the funding only covers the prime time unit’s operation through June. Norton said county staff will still have to configure, with council members’ input, how to fund the same four positions for fiscal year 2019.

According to county officials, the agency has made about $922,000 in requests for the FY2019 proposed budget, and $707,000 of that total is for 12 new positions. The county said it’s working to fulfill about $766,000 of the requested EMS funding.

The county’s proposed capital fund also includes coverage for a number of new resources to assist EMS crews on shift. Items include new rugged monitors; black box and camera recording systems for ambulances, to not only urge driver safety but also reduce accident and transport liability; and two power load stretchers for lifting patients without EMT assistance, though EMS originally requested a total of eight.

The equipment additions are just a portion of the $501,291 in total requests from county departments that county staff has recommended that the FY2019 budget help fund.