Former Piedmont CEO suggests progressive changes to EMS plan

Posted February 25, 2013 12:17 am | Filed under Featured, Local News

For months, York County Council has been working to ink a new deal with Piedmont Medical Center revamping the way ambulances are dispatched to medical calls.

The changes come at the urging of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, saying the current practice of dispatching ambulances from both Piedmont EMS and the county’s volunteer rescue squads is unnecessary and even a safety risk.

But in looking at updating the decades-old contract with Piedmont, county council and staff are having a bit of a struggle keeping the politics out of placing ambulances, particularly in rural parts of the county.

But that issue may have resolved itself Thursday as Piedmont’s former CEO Charlie Miller suggested to a council committee that ambulances be placed and dispatched based on the priority level of a call versus, “looking at circles on a map.”

Miller is working on behalf of Piedmont’s parent company Tenet Healthcare to iron out the details of the new EMS dispatch plan.

Miller told the council committee this new type of dispatch plan is already used in Mecklenburg County and is very effective.

Under the plan suggested by Miller last week, dispatchers in York County’s 911 center would triage medical calls over the phone, assigning them a priority of one, two or three.

Mecklenburg EMS Agency Deputy Director Jeff Keith says that is how it works at his agency, where dispatchers question callers and base the prioritization of the response over the phone.

High priority calls, like a heart attack or stroke would be answered in a shorter period of time, while lower priority calls may take longer to process.

Piedmont EMS Director Steve Cotter tells WRHI the new clinically based plan makes sense.

MEDIC, based in Mecklenburg County, covers 544 square miles of territory with anywhere from 20 to 50 ambulances on the road at a given time. Keith says this dispatch plan allows his 530 employees to generate data based on clinical statistics.

Cotter said he also liked the idea that the information used in the future would, like it is now, be based off historical data on calls for service.

Thursday night, the idea received a few initial nods from stakeholders in the room including York County’s 911 center, members of county council and representatives of the county’s volunteer rescue squads.

Cotter said the plan as presented Thursday could be in place in as early as 30 days after approval from the full county council.