Following nearly a year’s worth of discussion — both in public and, more often, behind closed doors — York County Council gave final approval Monday to the tenth addendum of a contract with Piedmont Medical Center outlining emergency care. The county also approved a new plan for dispatching ambulances in accordance with state law.
The plan inked Monday was a well-watered down version of earlier drafts, that removed key provisions sought by council members at the onset of the discussions earlier this year.
In the end, the plan chiefly eliminated the dual dispatch of ambulances to one medical call and solidified language that allows patients to choose which hospital they’re taken to for care.
But for councilman Joe Cox, one of the original committee members that worked on the plan, it was not enough.
“We didn’t do anything — not for the betterment of response times, to get that ambulance to you quicker,” Cox said.
A wide range of plans calling for faster response times were in earlier drafts of the plan, but were noticeably absent in subsequent versions.
“These response times decides whether someone has a chance to recover… a better chance to recover… possibly a chance to just live,” said councilman Bruce Henderson. “We held no feet to the fire.”
Among the items that remained in the tenth addendum and updated EMS dispatch plan:
And it turns out the eight-month ordeal may have not been necessary after all. Council chairman Britt Blackwell said Monday it had recently come to his attention the elimination of dual dispatch was a simple policy change that could have been executed with approval by Sheriff Bruce Bryant and county manager Bill Shanahan.
“It would have been nice if chairman Cox had come back in the first month and said, ‘you don’t need my committee to do this,’” Blackwell said. “But that simple thing did not occur until recently.”
York County’s contract with Piedmont Medical Center and Piedmont EMS comes at no direct cost to the county; a service that if run by the county, would cost between $4 and $8 million per year.
Blackwell says he’s open to addressing the response times in the future, times that can be upwards of 28 minutes in more remote parts of the county. But, he says, whatever decisions are made need to make sense for all parties involved.
“There has to be come some personal accountability,” he said. “You can’t live on the outskirts of Way Beyond and have no neighbors in five miles and expect a response time like [ambulances] are right around the corner.”