LAKE WYLIE — Volunteer emergency squads aren’t protesting a pending York County decision about how – or if – they’ll be able to operate.
An online petition is circulating asking county residents to oppose the new plan for emergency response that would impact paid provider Piedmont Medical Center, and River Hills/Lake Wylie EMS and Fort Mill Rescue volunteer units. Contract work began more than a year ago. York County Council is now down to one final reading needed to finalize a deal.
Dick Mann, president of the Lake Wylie squad, called the current proposal “a bad deal for everybody who lives in York County.” On Thursday, he said he’s pleased to see so many people agree.
In its first two weeks the online petition gathered 908 signatures, as of Lake Wylie Pilot press time Friday. Signatures mainly come from the Lake Wylie and Clover areas, although municipalities throughout York County and even into Charlotte are represented. The online petition also asks why they’re concerned, prompting an array of answers.
Some arguments are philosophical – that county emergency care shouldn’t be monopolized, that the contract lasts too long, that more choice in care is inherently better. Many arguments are personal. There’s the snakebite victim who preferred volunteer service when both responded, the parent who wants access to emergency care in Charlotte should a need arise, the elder residents who want service as close to their homes as possible.
In Lake Wylie, many responded the River Hills/Lake Wylie service is a main reason they moved here or stayed.
“We moved into River Hills because of this service,” said Lake Wylie resident Suzanne Krause.
Former York County Councilman Perry Johnston said by continuing the volunteer services in Lake Wylie and Fort Mill, Piedmont could better focus on areas of the county without such organizations.
“This will allow Piedmont to serve those areas of York County that more desperately need service other than the areas that are currently served by great citizen volunteers,” Johnston said.
Channie Battle in Fort Mill took a stance common to many: If the volunteer setup isn’t broken then stop trying to fix it.
“I have always preferred Fort Mill Rescue, and I want to keep Fort Mill Rescue as my choice,” Battle said.
Council members have said they aren’t interested in disbanding or harming volunteer units. However, the volunteers argue the new contract would harm them, from who gets to place ambulances at locations to what will be required of paid vs. volunteer units in the more than three-decade agreement. Mann said he’s confident volunteers have sympathetic votes on the Council, including District 2 representative Bruce Henderson.
But there are some on the Council, Mann said, who “do not fully understand the impact it’s going to have on the people they represent.” Volunteers say they have an argument based on dollars and “common sense,” Mann said. They hope the online petition will show the mass and widespread nature of concern, with specific examples of why a new deal should be reached.
“That’s what we have to hope is going to happen,” Mann said. “Something has got to get their attention.”
Volunteers would like county leaders to scrap much of the current contract and focus on fairly locating paid and volunteer ambulances. Dual dispatch, or sending multiple agencies to the same incident, is the driving reason for change after a state mandate that the county discontinue that system.
The Council meets again Monday, Dec. 2.
John Marks • 803-831-8166