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Orangeburg County’s EMS director says frivolous calls need to be reduced.

Many calls do not warrant the services of an ambulance and take away from calls and situations that may be more serious, Director Danny Rivers said.

“Our goal is to try to educate them to get them what EMS is for, and when they need to call us,” he said.

Rivers discussed ambulance services during Orangeburg County Council’s meeting on Friday.

According to state recommendations, the county should have nine ambulances, Rivers said. It has seven.

“They use that number because they say anybody in the state, if you call 911, an ambulance should be to you in eight minutes. That’s their projection. Right now we're at about 11 minutes,” Rivers said.

Rivers said the county’s EMS call volume for 2018 was 15,652. “We are averaging a 500-call increase when it comes to ambulance calls,” he noted.

Rivers reported that the county has nine open paramedic positions, four EMT positions and one dispatch position currently unfilled.

Councilman Harry Wimberly suggested that paramedics could solve many EMS problems.

“If this county has three or four paramedics, they need a pick-up” truck, he said. “The ambulance can dispatch with the two EMS people in it, and the paramedic meets them.”

Wimberly suggested that the paramedics should always be mobile in the county’s EMS pick-up trucks and located in various regions of the county.

“They get that person stabilized. Can those two EMS people bring them back to the hospital and the paramedic is free again to go somewhere else? We might cut the response time,” he said.

County Administrator Harold Young stated that solutions similar to Wimberly’s ideas have been deeply discussed.

“We’re in the process now of reviewing the whole thing, operations, top to bottom, to see where we can make strides from the radio call all the way down to the moment,” Young stated.

Council members also expressed concerns about the acute, 128-bed hospital that will be opening within a year in Berkeley County, specifically in the Nexton area.

The hospital will be about 25 miles from the Eutawville and Holly Hill areas.

In comparison, the Regional Medical Center is approximately 35 miles or more from those same areas.

The council members agreed that the new hospital will probably cause an increase in the number of Orangeburg County residents who seek medical attention outside of the county.

“The way that we combat that is the urgent care center we’re looking to build in Santee. We’ve got to get that done right away,” Young stated.

“We get that done right away and that gives people an option that’s only 10 minutes away, or five minutes away,” he said. “Whatever it takes to focus on that, that needs to be the focus -- to get that urgent care center done.”

Council members Willie B. Owens and Deloris Frazier, along with RMC trustee Gloria James, suggested that a marketing/public relations campaign be implemented as soon as possible to help combat the potential loss of patients.

“Orangeburg is going to have to do an awful lot of marketing to improve and to prove to the residents that the Orangeburg hospital is great and is going to get better. And to really step up marketing in that area we really need to go that extra mile to gain confidence back in the residents and to also highlight positive things that the hospital is doing,” James said.

Charles Williams, president and CEO of RMC, stated that RMC is aware of the threat. He noted that many issues within RMC that are being corrected will also help combat the problem, and reverse the hospital’s negative image in the eyes of the county’s citizens.

“There are basic infrastructure things of the way a hospital should work that did not exist,” Williams said, recalling the state of the hospital when he initially took his position.

“What we are trying to do is put those basic things in place,” Williams said.

“Fundamentally until you get that in a culture, the hospital doesn’t operate,” Williams said.

“You have my word, we’re going to get it done.”

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Contact the writer: bharris@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5516.

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Staff Writer

Bradley Harris is a Government and Sports Reporter. The Irmo, SC native is a 2018 graduate of Claflin University and recipient of the 2018 South Carolina Press Association Collegiate Journalist of the Year Award.

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