York County EMS decision coming soon?

jmarks@lakewyliepilot.comJuly 30, 2013 

— If all goes according to plan, York County Council could make a long-awaited decision on county ambulance service Aug. 19.

For more than a year there has been discussion and proposals on how ambulance service should operate within the county. The discussion began when the state mandated the county end dual dispatch, or having multiple agencies running to the same calls.

In recent months the issue has been in a Council committee led by Councilman Joe Cox. Councilman Bruce Henderson, who represents Lake Wylie, also is part of that group. A Council vote date isn’t “set in stone,” Henderson said, but it’s close.

“The goal would be to get it out of committee if at all possible and have it ready for (Aug. 19),” he said.

Michael Johnson represents much of the Fort Mill area on Council. He’s also been part of the committee discussions. Johnson, too, expects something to come before the full Council soon.

“I would expect this to be back in August or first of September at the latest,” he said.

County leaders have been meeting with paid ambulance service provider Piedmont Medical Center and volunteer units like River Hills/Lake Wylie EMS and Fort Mill Rescue. A meeting with all parties should come a week prior to the Council meeting, on Aug. 12, to hammer out as many last minute details as possible.

“At this point we’re just trying to bring the parties together one last time,” Henderson said.

A variety of issues throughout the process put volunteer squads in opposition to contract proposals. Some the squads called inconveniences. Others they said could take them off the roads. Issues being worked out include who gets to place ambulances throughout the county, how they’ll be dispatched, what squads will be allowed to operate in the county and what response times should be mandated.

On Friday morning, the county sent its latest service proposal out to squads. Leo Yakutis, vice president with River Hills/Lake Wylie EMS, said he and the squad would need a few days reviewing the document to see how they’d be impacted.

“On first glance, it’s impossible,” he said.

Yakutis said the volunteer squads and Piedmont wouldn’t have their standards enforced the same way. Henderson said a system needs to be put in place using all available response services for the benefit of residents. Getting that system will mean concessions from both sides, he said.

The latest target deadline isn’t the first. Contract proposals have come before Council multiple times, only to be delayed. Some Council members said in past meetings that the issue has gone on long enough, even proposing a time limit for similar decisions in the future.

Henderson said he’s interested in the best decision rather than the fastest, though he’s also interested in coming to a resolution.

“I’m hoping for the very best,” he said.

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