ELIZABETHTOWN — The Bladen County Commissioners heard an update from Bladen County Emergency Services Director David Howell on Monday night regarding the county’s EMS program.
He told the board there are several challenges being faced by EMS. Howell told the board that surrounding counties pay higher salaries; Clarkton EMS is out of service and the county is currently providing coverage; there have been Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement cuts among other things.
“Once the volunteers go off (duty), it leaves three trucks and Bladenboro Rescue to cover the county,” said Howell.
He told the board that currently the county has four medic units which he tries to station throughout the county. Howell said even with that plan, some areas of the county are still without adequate coverage.
When he was asked about the part-time staff Howell replied that EMS is not getting adequate coverage with their part-time staff. Howell told the board that last year EMS spent $48,000 in paying overtime to employees.
“We have already expended 54 percent of the overtime budget due to call outs,” said Howell of this year’s EMS budget.
He told the board that Clarkton Rescue Squad is no longer functioning and Bladen County EMS has been providing coverage to those citizens. Howell said he had spoken to Bladenboro Rescue’s chief about the situation.
“I’ve talked with Bladenboro Rescue, they are stretched thin. They back us up but they can’t take up additional area in the Clarkton coverage zone,” said Howell.
Steven Hester, chief of Clarkton Rescue Squad was present at the meeting. The board asked Hester about he status of Clarkton Rescue Squad.
“What is the interim plan for service?” asked Commissioner Delilah Blanks.
“Probably having to shut the doors permanently,” said Hester.
The commissioners wanted to know how long Clarkton Rescue would be down and Howell told the board that the reason Clarkton Rescue was out of service was due to a lack of personnel and without adequate staffing, they cannot bring the service back online.
Howell provided the board two recommendations. The first recommendation is to add one unit at night with two full-time paramedics and two full-time basic EMTs at a cost of $150,000. the second recommendation is to add three full-time staff members to day shift at a cost of $105,000.
The board asked what the ideal recommendation would be and Howell replied the ideal recommendation would be to have the board fund both recommendation 1 and 2 immediately.
After further discussion, the board decided to meet at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 26, to discuss the EMS budget and Howell’s recommendations further.
In other business:
—The board recognized several county employees for their years of service. Honored were Register of Deeds Beverly Parks for 20 years of service; Willie McLaughlin of Central Services for 25 years of service; Thomasina Campbell with Bladen County EMS for 10 years of service; Clara Johnson with the Bladen County Health Department for 20 years of service; Lisa Nance with Bladen County Department of Social Services for 25 years of service’ Bladen County DSS Director Vickie Smith for 15 years of service; Carol Cain with Bladen County Revenue Department for 10 years of service; Kenneth R. Hester with the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office for 5 years of service; Jeffrey Tyler with the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office for 10 years of service; Glenda Bagwell with Bladen County EMS for 5 years of service; Crystal Simmons with the Bladen County Health Department for 20 years of service; Martha Collins with the Division on Aging for 15 years of service; and Johnice Autry with the Bladen County Cooperative Extension with 25 years of service.
— The board approved a Bladen County credit card policy and credit card use agreement form and approved the Bladen County Financial and Budgetary Policies.
— The appointed Paula Greene and Kenneth Clark to the Child Fatality Protection Team and appointed Bladen County Manager Greg Martin, Commissioner Arthur Bullock, Linda Croom and Anthony Davis to the EMS Advisory Council.
Erin Smith can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.