In her song “Big Yellow Taxi,” singer Joni Mitchell sang, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” If you live in York County, it might apply to you.
In February, the York County Council will consider the contract that all EMS providers will be required to sign if they wish to continue operations. This could be the solution to the foolish “Ambulance Wars” waged by Piedmont Medical Center, or it could be another hardship imposed on the volunteer services, perhaps contributing to their demise.
Those of us on the front lines of these battles are hoping the contract language will be palatable. Then, we can return to the days of friendship and cooperation with the medics at Piedmont. But, from previous negotiations, we know Piedmont would like to see several conditions inserted that we would find unacceptable.
Among these is a requirement that the volunteer squads accept a Piedmont physician as medical control. All EMS agencies require a medical control physician, under whose license we operate. Without a medical control, we are prohibited from the field.
We had common medical control eight years ago, and Piedmont withdrew that support. We now have an outstanding, supportive, emergency room physician as our medical control – one recognized as the best in the state not too long ago. We would be crazy to give him up for an opportunity to place our neck on the chopping block again.
Another Piedmont wish is the volunteer squads all accept and employ Piedmont’s medical protocols. EMS agencies operate as an extension of their medical control physician. All have a book of written directives regarding what should or shouldn’t be done when faced with most medical situations. While there is usually great similarity from one agency to another, there can be differences in medications of choice, or when a medic can act autonomously, or when he must call for orders.
Deprived of Piedmont’s medical control, the volunteers developed their own protocols, approved by our medical control. They are, by the way, those recommended by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, EMS Division. There is no practical reason for us to change.
We also must remind Council that we are supported by and serve our local community. As part of the county EMS response, we have always been willing to respond to an emergency anywhere in this or an adjoining county. But, Piedmont wants us subject to being posted anywhere in the county, while one of their ambulances sits in our neighborhood. This would undermine our relationship with our community and negatively impact our ability to seek their support.
We also feel it unwise for this contract to have a 33-year term in our rapidly growing and changing county.
And we feel Dr. Blackwell, Council chairman, should recuse himself because of his professional relationship with Piedmont Medical Center.
With the demise of the textile industry, Piedmont Medical Center is the largest employer in York County. They also are the largest source of advertising money and political donations, and they have a public relations firm to push their agenda. Their influence is significant.
Most folks want the volunteer squads to remain and continue serving as they have for decades. But people just don’t always think about their ambulance providers until they need one. As it is, only River Hills/Lake Wylie EMS and Fort Mill Rescue have survived Piedmont’s war of attrition.
Our only weapon is you, the people of York County. Please make your opinions known to your council representative and Council Chairman Dr. Blackwell. Go to their website at YorkCountyGov.com/CountyCouncil/CouncilMembers and email or call them. Voice your opinion, before the next council meeting.
AL DePALMA, Lake Wylie