Volunteer EMS groups to be heard

jmarks@lakewyliepilot.comMay 21, 2013 

— Volunteer emergency responders get their time in front of decision-makers this week, just ahead of a county move that could dictate how they’ll operate.

A York County Council subcommittee plans to meet May 21 behind closed doors with volunteer units like River Hills/Lake Wylie EMS and Fort Mill Rescue. On April 16, the committee that includes Councilmen Bruce Henderson, Joe Cox and Michael Johnson met in executive session with Piedmont Medical Center officials and promised something similar for volunteers.

“I’m trying my best to make it right for everyone involved, as best I can,” Henderson said.

For more than a year, the county and service responders have been reworking and negotiating contracts for medical transport service. The county is updating contracts that will impact both Piedmont, which provides paid ambulance service, and volunteer units.

Henderson said there’s likely to be at least one final meeting after getting together with volunteers, bringing all parties to the same table. Then the committee will bring an official recommendation to CouncilCouncil meets June 3, then again June 17.

Throughout discussions, volunteer units have argued against contract language they say could limit or altogether eliminate their service. Issues range from what doctor is in control of ambulance service to what areas get which mandated response times, what new agencies might be allowed to operate in the future and which agencies will station what ambulances where.

There’s no guarantee the issue will be resolved in the coming weeks. Several times Council expected a decision only to see the issue postponed for further discussion. At one such meeting in early February, Councilman William “Bump” Roddey said his voicemail was full of comments on the issue as he and others pushed for a time limit on negotiations.

“Can you put a time limit on it,” Chairman Britt Blackwell asked of the motion to delay action in February, “because this has been going on for a year?”

Dick Mann, president of Lake Wylie/River Hills EMS, said last week he’d wait to see how much headway might be made at the May 21 meeting.

“It depends on what is discussed at the meeting whether it will be productive,” he said.

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