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River Hills/Lake Wylie EMS grateful for support, looks ahead

March 24, 2014 

The members of RH/LW EMS want to express our gratitude to the many community members who supported us in so many ways during the recent challenge. The controversy is by no means over, but we see signs of improvement in our working environment, and we are cautiously optimistic about repairing relations with the management of Piedmont Medical Center and their ambulance service.

Many ask us, “Where do things stand at this time?”

Currently, York County Emergency Operations is dispatching the closest ambulance to a 911 call. We have verbal assurances Piedmont will not “stack” ambulances to flank the remaining volunteer units (Fort Mill Rescue and River Hills/Lake Wylie EMS), thus assuring we will be able to run our fair share of calls. So far, it’s working well, and the reduction of tension is palpable.

If your need is met by a Piedmont ambulance, rather than your local volunteer squad, it is because the local squad is too far away or not available.

Conversely, if you live in an area not served by a volunteer squad, you may be surprised when we show up at your door. For the first time in many years, the volunteers are considered a full member of the county’s emergency response team and are ready to respond outside normal “home” territory.

We are humbled by your support. So many of you pitched in from passionate appeals at the county council meetings, and letters and emails to local government and media, to just plain insisting “We want River Hills” at our time of need. We knew from the beginning we couldn’t overpower our opponent, but if we had the people on our side, we could outlast them.

To us, it was an example of the unwritten covenant between us – for over 33 years, RH/LW EMS has had an ambulance and volunteer crew on duty, ready to respond every day and night. You have supported us with your donations and more recently with your actions. It became clear to the Council and Piedmont Medical Center that our commitment was appreciated and valued by the neighbors we serve. They would not see it eliminated without incurring displeasure.

New challenges

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “When you’re up to your (ahem) waist in alligators, it’s hard to remember you came to drain the swamp.” So have we deferred several facets of our operation, while we fought for survival. Here are issues to which we will now turn our attention:

• A new post. The new protocols mean the closest ambulance will be dispatched to a call. Our squad building at the entrance to River Hills Plantation severely reduces the area to which we will be dispatched. We must keep the on-duty ambulance near the intersection of highways 49, 557 and 279, commonly called Three Points. We are looking for space as close to Three Points as possible. All we need is room for furniture, a TV, computer work station and restroom. For years, we have asked our people to sit in the ambulance, usually with the engine running, for their entire 12-hour shift. It has been hard on the crews and the trucks. We wish to place the crew in a small post where they can be comfortable, get something done, and let the ambulance rest as well. We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation. A reasonable amount can be taken as a charitable tax deduction for rent not charged or discounted.

• A new ambulance. The older of our two ambulances is past due for replacement. Since we are not a large service with in-house maintenance, it is becoming difficult to keep this vehicle mission ready. Our hope is to purchase a new or late model used ambulance. We also need updates to the newer unit.

• Restore our financial stability. Since our beginning as the River Hills Emergency Squad, we have been frugal spending and conservative in our financial policies. But the strains of the last few years have raised our operational expenses and forced us to dip into reserves. We incurred well over $15,000 in legal expenses, above the Pro Bono work.

• New protocols. We have adopted the state protocols recommended by DHEC, but we need to re-energize our learning and training to incorporate new developments in pre-hospital emergency medicine for the benefit of our patients. We have a lot of pride, powerful resources for teaching and training, and a determination to stand equal with any agency in the region.

Support needed

We will continue to serve you, and ask that you continue with your support of us. Your donations remain vital to meeting the needs of the community, and we are tax-deductible. We also appreciate your words of thanks and encouragement when we see you. They are a most welcome lift to our spirits.

Our deep gratitude goes to restaurants in the area that say, “Thanks for what you do” by offering discounted meals to our crews on duty. It makes the cost of volunteering a little lower and provides a friendly retreat.

Want to join us? Contact rhes@comporium.net and leave your contact information.

Al DePalma, board member of River Hills/Lake Wylie EMS.

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