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BAMBERG – Medshore Ambulance officials spoke about Bamberg County’s new ambulance service during county council’s meeting last week. Meanwhile, some residents say they don’t want the change.

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The nonprofit Bamberg Rescue Squad Inc. handled EMS calls in the county until Oct. 1, when the county switched to Anderson-based Medshore Ambulance.

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Medshore General Manager Josh Shore said the company was accredited through the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services. He said it’s one of 188 ambulance services in the entire world that is accredited.

“We do an off-site review and every three years, they come on site to make sure we are meeting the gold standard in the profession,” he said.

The company is owned by Tennessee-based Priority Ambulance, which provides emergency and non-emergency medical care in 10 states.

James Smith is the company’s medical director outside of Anderson County.

“Dr. John Ross is our assistant medical director. Him and Jimmy Smith will be overseeing all medical CQI (continuous quality improvement) and scope of practice,” Shore said.

He said, “We take customer satisfaction to heart because we want to hear from our customers, our patients, so we can become a better organization. Are we perfect? No, by no means. However, we do want to know if we have an issue so we can tackle it and follow back up.”

Shore added, “Our county average response time is just under 12 minutes for a rural county. That’s pretty strong for a rural part of the county and the national practice standards that we have.”

He said the company is currently serving Bamberg County with two 24-hour trucks. It will be using three stations in the city of Bamberg, Denmark and Ehrhardt.

“We’re in the process of staffing a truck in Bamberg and we’re looking to staff a truck in Ehrhardt as well. We understand the land mass and the difference being spread out, especially Bamberg and Ehrhardt. So we’re in the process of working on making sure we have adequate coverage throughout the county,” Shore said.

CEO Greg Shore said, “Right now we’re guaranteeing two trucks and then backups from our surrounding counties. Another thing we’re looking at, too, is call volume. We want to try to get enough call volume data so we can decide where to post the ambulances at certain times of the day.

“So you’ll see our ambulances rolling. They may go halfway to a city and back and try to cover these areas so we can get better response time. It’s a work in progress and we’re trying to make sure we meet all the needs.”

Josh Shore said the company also works with the county’s E-911 center and conducts “in-service, in-house training for EMTs and paramedics every month.”

“One thing that we will provide to the county each month is a monthly report that touches on all our CQI, our transport volume, responses, our time compliance. We want to be transparent and keep the county abreast of our data.

“We offer all benefits and everything with our HR program. One thing that we did was with all the new hires from Bamberg County, we made sure we did background checks, everybody met our standard when it comes to drug testing, driving, all those requirements.”

He said there are six paramedics and seven EMTs currently on staff.

“So far we’ve had 41 requests of service of 911 in the county. We’ve transported 30 patients. ... We’re in the process of working with Bamberg County and Barnwell County as a direct response mutual aid agreement. So it allows both counties working together to meet the response times and the 911 responses,” Josh Shore said.

He said, “We’re willing to work with all the stakeholders in the county to work together, communicate effectively and still make sure we meet all expectations of making sure we get good quality care. We’ll be rolling out different initiatives with the fire department. We want to do some training programs.”

Josh Shore said the company works with Barnwell and Orangeburg counties and Bamberg Rescue Squad for mutual aid.

“If both of our two 24-hour trucks are tied up on emergency calls and another emergency comes in to the county, one of these providers will be responding to the call” and vice versa, he said.

Public concerns

During public comments, some residents said they are not happy with having a new service.

Carol Ann Bunch accused the council of allowing County Administrator Joey Preston to "throw us under the bus."

"I can only hope this decision doesn't endanger any lives," Bunch said.

Lynn Wallace read a letter on behalf of someone whose elderly mother had a heart condition and who stated in the letter that it took the new ambulance service 45 minutes to respond as compared to the 10 minutes it would take the Bamberg Rescue Squad.

Wallace said, "On a personal note, I'm the school nurse at Richard Carroll (Elementary School). I have 750 children there. If I have an emergency, I have to have backup. There’s no room for error, not with our children.

"The other thing is I live in Ehrhardt, where we’re used to having a service there and we have nothing. The 10 minutes and 40 seconds that Medshore said, there’s a big discrepancy in 45 minutes and 10 minutes. Somewhere in there is the truth. So I beg you to please, please, make sure that we get the service that we deserve."

Others called for Preston's resignation, including Melissa Quattlebaum and Judy Sandifer.

"We're not getting any problems solved" while the administrator "don't pay a lick of taxes," Sandifer said.

Tony Duncan said, "The damage has been done."

He said Preston needs to resign so that the county "can get back to what it needs to be."

Ken Ahlin said the county will end up losing people because of its high taxes.

Miriam Beard stated that vehicle tax revenue is down in the county for a reason.

"When you have vehicle taxes so high and no one is doing anything to address it, people will find other options. They will insure their cars in other counties where the taxes are lower. So if you have a lowering of vehicle tax income, look at that as a possibility," Beard said.

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Sue Clayton said, "If we fix the problems, we won't have the negativity. We don't trust you as a council."

Rhonda Brummel said the council should work together with the citizens to create fiscal stability and responsibility in the county, adding, "This is a not a kingdom where the council rules."

Peggy Gleaton said, "I am very troubled by the shameful conduct and the language by some of our council members towards some of the citizens. We have been cursed at, we have been threatened, we have been belittled and we have been made fun of because of the questions that we’re asking, the concerns that we have.

"But may I remind you that we pay your salaries. We own this building and everything that’s in it, and we are saddled with all the debt and all of the high taxes that you approved."

Councilman Joe Guess Jr. said, "I’m available for anybody, not only Ms. Gleaton. Anytime you’ve got any of these questions when they arise, call me, we’ll talk about it. I’ll be glad to try to give you an answer.”

Gleaton said she emailed Guess following a confrontation between county resident Brad Hudson and Kinard after a Sept. 9 council meeting, but it wasn’t returned. Guess said he didn't receive it.

“I asked for his (Kinard's) resignation because of the shameful conduct and I didn’t hear anything back from you," Gleaton said.

Susan Carter asked County Treasurer Alice Johnson about two checks for August and September that she said were owed to the Bamberg Rescue Squad from a previous contract it had with the county.

"Our cash flow would not allow us to release the checks (at the time)," Johnson said, but Preston later said via email that the checks would be released and that there would be no delay in Medshore's payments for service.

"There will be no delay in paying Medshore. I have instructed Alice to pay Bamberg Rescue any past due funds and not to hold up any payments even though Bamberg Rescue did not comply with the contract," Preston said.

Jeanette Driggers, 84, inquired about what she considered the lack of handicapped parking at the courthouse.

"We've got a lot of elderly people in this county. I would like to see some more (handicapped spaces)," she said.

Preston said additional handicapped parking spaces are on the way.

Finance and other reports

In other matters, Johnson reported the county's total income in August was $487,282, with expenditures of $820,866.

The county is awaiting additional revenue with the release of property tax notices.

While the county has $554,000 in reserve cash, Johnson said her aim is remain fiscally conservative.

"If the spending would go down, maybe we wouldn't have all these problems," she said.

Preston gave council a copy of the county's operating accounts, adding that Johnson's report was for the county's regular account from which the treasurer writes checks for all of the county's bills.

While that account is $362,000 in the red this year, "Last year at this time, it was $1.2 million. We all must be doing something right to get to that point," Preston said.

During his report, the administrator stated that the county's C-Fund Committee completed a transportation plan for the county.

Also, a new system was implemented through which citizens can petition for road improvements in the county.

"You can pick up one of these forms at the assessor’s office, complete it and then submit it to the county first. The county will screen it and we’ll see if they really want the road paved, or if they want to have something else done to it. And then it can be filtered that way, and then we can present these petitions to the committee," Preston said.

Preston gave an update on Dally Road in Denmark, saying, "The road bed will be built up, and there will be proper drainage installed. And then the rock will be placed, of course, on top and then it will be compact. ... With the road base and the way they’re developing it, it’s going to make it a very viable paving project in the future.”

The administrator also he is working on securing a new fire truck for the Edisto Fire Department, as well as making sure everyone in the county is counted in the upcoming 2020 Census.

He said the county will be represented at an upcoming South Carolina for the Count Creative Workshop to be held on Oct. 29. It is open to the public and more information can be found online at https://southcarolinaforthecount.splashthat.com.

During council comments, Councilman Larry Haynes said, "We are doing what we think is right.”

Guess touted Preston's ability to lift the county out of the $2 million debt hole that it was in.

"He knows what rocks to look under. ... He has my support," Guess said.

Councilman Evert Comer Jr. said he believes council members are good fiscal stewards. Regarding Preston, he said, "We're going to support him."

In other business:

• Council presented Alex Ahlin with a resolution recognizing his achievements as the 2019 USA Shooting National Junior Olympics Champion.

• Following a public hearing, council gave final third-reading approval to an ordinance authorizing a fee-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement between the county and Project Pegasus, along with special source revenue credits. The project could bring 132 jobs and $2.1 million in capital investment to the county.

• Gave first reading approval to an ordinance granting an easement to Rockland Industries Inc. across Industrial Drive for the installation of a domestic water line.

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• Approved resolutions recognizing October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

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Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534. Follow "Good News with Gleaton" on Twitter at @DionneTandD

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