ANDERSON COUNTY, SC (WSPA) — Anderson County’s new emergency service system (EMS), is now up and running, after previously having seven different providers.
As of September 1, the new system is more unified, under county control.
“This way, you can streamline it. You can have order. You can have a system that works as a whole and so we’re really excited about that too,” said Rusty Burns, Anderson County Administrator.
“It took seven providers turned them into one, so instead of dealing with the seven providers on a daily basis, we now just deal with one,” said Steven Kelly, Director of Anderson County Emergency Medical Services.
Anderson County has hired 44 full-time paramedics, and about 25 part-time paramedics.
“Basically with the 44 full-time we hired and the part-time, we did hire some people outside of Anderson County, but we predominantly still tried to hire from the resources we had here in the county,” Kelly said. “We really tried to hire the best that we could find.”
“As you know, it’s a two-tier approach. The county operates the paramedics system. Those are county employees. They’re responsible to the county,” Burns said.
The paramedics will be in quick response vehicles, also known as QRV’s, which are housed at fire stations. There will be 15 QRV’s throughout the county.
“What this really does is double the number of emergency vehicles in Anderson County and our response time is hopefully going to be under 10 minutes. That’s what we said we’re going to do, and that’s what we’re going to do, and where we strategically placed those paramedic vehicles, I think that’s going to work,” Burns said.
County officials said QRV’s can get to a scene faster to start life-saving aid, before an ambulance arrives.
Priority Ambulance, also known as Medshore, is the contractor providing the ambulance service. The ambulance will hold emergency medical technicians (EMT’s). Medshore will 17 have ambulances for transportation.
“Medshore ambulance service whose mother company is Priority Ambulance, I believe they activated a task force that they have and brought in outside personnel to assist with the transfer from their side until they can be up to full staff,” Kelly said.
“It is built around 17 basic life-support ambulances that are supported by 15 quick response vehicles that are staffed with one paramedic each,” Kelly said. “Prior to this switch over, there were 17 ambulances that were provided by different providers in Anderson County. And then we operated five quick response vehicles that were predominantly around the city of Anderson,” he said. “Prior to this contract, there were seven EMS providers in the county.”
Officials said since the county is growing, the goal is to have more first responders out on the road.
“Our population now is around 205,000 and it’s going to continue to grow, so we’re just trying to make sure we’re keeping pace with the growth,” Burns said.
Some people said after hearing about the new system, they had concerns.
“My biggest concerns were would we still have the availability that we currently have. Would it improve it or would our response times decline,” said Walter Lanier, resident. “My biggest concern with that is the outer lining townships will they be affected? Will they still have the response times they need or will they be lessen? Will it be more focused inside the county where we are, or the response be everywhere, equally the same?”
So far, Kelly said he has not been made aware of any major response time issues.
“Overall, I have not been made aware of any major response time problems. The majority of our problems that we’ve experienced are growing pains. Things that we may not have thought about prior to going live with everything,” Kelly said. “But once we identify, hey that’s an issue, we’re able to immediately take care of it.”
Kelly said right now, they are still gathering data on response times, since the new system has been operating.
“The overall response times for the 911 calls, we are still in the process of gathering that data. We will take our data from Anderson County’s side, and compare it with the data that Medshore has from their CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) and then after that, I’ll be able to give a more reliable timeframe,” Kelly said.
Burns said they have people in place to stay on top of the new system and the ambulance provider.
“Medshore has a contract that was awarded to them, and so there are penalties in that contract if they don’t meet what they told us what they would do in that contract, and the penalties can require a fine, a monetary fine. So, we expect them to step up. I know that Anderson County is going to step up,” Burns said. “And with five days in, and we’re generally pleased with the way everything is going. Do we have some bumps, yes. Will we have some more bumps, yes but hopefully by the end of 30 days it’ll be smooth,” Burns said.
“From the general person in their homes, everyday dialing 911, I want them to see really no change in the EMS services they receive. We want the ambulance arriving at their location within the same time frame as previous, if not faster,” Kelly said.
Medshore has a $1.9 million contract as the ambulance service provider. Burns said AnMed Health has also given the county $1.4 million to assist with the new system.
“One of the reasons we were able to do this is because AnMed is partnering with Anderson County to provide those paramedics all across the county. And AnMed has given the county $1.4 million to operate this system, and we’re very pleased with that, and we’re very pleased with our partnership with AnMed and we expect that to grow hopefully after we get the paramedics on the road–which they’re on the road now and have been for five days,” Burns said.