EMS Director responds to accusations

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 30, 2004

WINTON – All Charles Jones wants is a chance to, in his words, &uot;clear the air.&uot;

During a recent political forum, Jones – Hertford County’s Director of Emergency Services, who is not running for any office – was the subject of discussion. He was accused of using disaster relief funding to purchase a new truck and a boat and was blamed for hording ice in the aftermath of Hurricane Isabel. In addition, a political hopeful said that Hertford County’s paid EMT service received preferential treatment over those that man the volunteer units.

&uot;As far as the first issue is concerned, the new service truck we recently purchased came through funding we received from the Homeland Security Act,&uot; said Jones. &uot;Those are funds designated for such purchases, as well as buying radios and other equipment needed for emergency response.&uot;

He continued, &uot;As far as us buying a boat, there is no truth in that at all. The county does not own a boat and as far as I know we’re not planning on purchasing one.&uot;

Jones stated that the ice issue following the hurricane arose due to the late hour of arrival of resource items from the state. He said that the first shipment of ice came in between 10-11 p.m. on Sept. 21 (2003).

&uot;Prior to that time, a rumor got out that we had ice (at the EMS building near Winton) and that we would be distributing it through the fire departments in the county earlier in the day on Sept. 21,&uot; recalled Jones. &uot;People began to stand in line for ice that we had not yet received.&uot;

Jones also noted the mandated 8 p.m. curfew during that State of Emergency. He said that even if the ice had arrived a few hours earlier on Sept. 21, it would not have been dispersed until the next day.

&uot;There were still power lines and trees down all over the county,&uot; he stated. &uot;That’s part of the reason for the curfew, to get people off the roads before it got dark.&uot;

Still, Jones said he was blamed for hording ice.

&uot;We did keep some of it on hand at our office, but those bags were designated for the Salvation Army, Red Cross, Forest Service, DOT and our storm shelters,&uot; he stressed. &uot;Personally, I did not keep one single bag for my family. My wife drove to Rocky Mount to purchase the ice we used.&uot;

Jones went into great detail when explaining the current means of dispatching emergency response units. He said the change began to evolve back in the late 1990’s when the Hertford County Commissioners opted to hire EMT’s to cover the county during the daytime hours, with nighttime and weekend duty still falling on the shoulders of the volunteer units.

&uot;As time evolved, we extended our service hours into Saturdays,&uot; he said. &uot;That was basically attributed to the heavy construction periods associated with Nucor and the new prison. Then, in 2000, the Murfreesboro Rescue Squad closed its doors and when Como (Rescue Squad) said they didn’t have enough manpower to cover for Murfreesboro, our Commissioners voted to commit to a 24-7 paid EMT service.&uot;

According to Jones, even then the volunteer units had what he called, &uot;a five-minute first page.&uot;

&uot;The volunteers received the first opportunity to respond to a call,&uot; Jones explained. &uot;After five minutes, we were dispatched if the volunteers had yet to respond. That bothered our Commissioners. They were worried that we were placing the patients in jeopardy by waiting five minutes, and I agree. The patients should always come first, not a debate over who gets to respond first.&uot;

Jones said the current dispatching method is one where the paid EMT’s and the volunteers are simultaneously paged. However, that may change in the future as Jones explained that a current movement within the State Office of Emergency Medical Service calls for all response teams statewide to become EMT-I (Intermediate) certified, a part of offering Advanced Life Support services.

&uot;Once this program evolves, it will get to the point where if a person is not certified EMT-I, their department cannot be the primary response team,&uot; he noted. They can be paged out as a back up. That’s not my standards; that’s not the county’s standards; that’s the state standards. I’m just following their rules, ones that will go even further to help those in need.&uot;

Jones closed by shedding light on accusations that Hertford County EMS is alone when it comes to billing for their services.

&uot;Do we bill for the services we offer, sure we do,&uot; he stated. &uot;What we charge are user service fees, just like a county resident pays for water or to dump their garbage. We generate the money we’re budgeted every year, thus reducing the burden on our taxpayers. But we’re not alone in this. Other emergency responders, paid EMT’s and volunteer units, also charge for their services.&uot;