Cherokee County May Pay More For Less Ambulance Service -

Cherokee County May Pay More For Less Ambulance Service

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It looks like an abandoned home but the oversized carport gives it away.  The empty building on Green River Road in Cherokee County is one of only three homes for ambulances run by the county's Emergency Medical Service.

There is no sign and by the end of May there may no longer be any ambulance stationed here.

In an email sent to all fire chiefs in Cherokee County, an official with the county EMS tells the chiefs "Effective, midnight May 31st, EMS will reduce ambulances from 5 to 3." It specifically mentions the ambulance on Green River Road as one of those to be taken out of service.

That email goes on to say that the EMS will ask the county council for more money in the form of a tax increase. 

 "The tax increase needed is 4 mills, or $16 a year on a $100,000 home," it says.

In Cherokee County, any tax money sent to the EMS would be a major policy shift.  Right now, taxpayers don't pay a dime because of a decades old contract with the local hospital which is now owned by Novant Health.

In the agreement, the hospital is responsible for providing EMS service.

The question is, how much service do they really have to provide and can they ask for money to give the county what some council member say it needs.

This comes just 4 months after the hospital turned the EMS operations over to a local contractor on January 1st.

The contractor is operated by the owner of Ambustar ambulance service.

"You will see an increase in some response times but we will be there," said Gaffney Fire Chief Jamie Caggiano.

Caggiano says that even with a reduction in ambulances there will be someone to provide emergency care countywide.  He does admit getting an actual ambulance to the scene may take longer.  Still, he says there may be other options.

"We need to lay all the cards on the table and look at different options, from volunteer rescue squads to multiple companies providing EMS to possibly the fire service providing EMS. There's a lot of different options out there."

Ambustar's owner said he couldn't comment without the hospital's permission.  The hospital refused to comment on the specifics of the chief's email. 

The hospital vice-president, Brian Yates, is on the Cherokee County council meeting agenda for Monday as a petitioner to discuss the ambulance service.

Council members reached for comment said they felt the existing contract required the hospital to continue service.  They said they would oppose any new taxes.

So do some of the fire chiefs.

"I think it can be solved other ways," Caggiano said.

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