HC Commissioners discuss emergency response

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 24, 2006

WINTON – Change is coming to Hertford County’s Emergency Medical Services.

Hertford County EMS Medical Director Dr. Joseph Tripp made a request during last week’s Board of Commissioners meeting to change the paging protocol for the county’s EMS.

“Hertford County will be upgrading to what is known as EMT-Intermediate level very soon,” Tripp said. “Station 19 (Hertford County EMS) will be providing Advanced Life Support (ALS) services county-wide, but will be the only station using ALS.”

Hertford County EMS and the county’s volunteer rescue squads are currently providing Basic Life Support (BLS).

“I feel this change in paging protocols will assure the quickest response for our patients from both the BLS and ALS units and provide the best care we can for every patient,” Tripp said.

The ALS truck with the EMT-Intermediate personnel will have capabilities the BLS trucks do not have including starting IV’s and giving upper level medication.

“Due to this new service, we will need to change the paging protocols for our system,” Tripp continued. “I would like to continue to use a dual page system, but make a very important change. We will no longer need to page out two ambulances for each call. We will continue to page the volunteer stations for a first-responder on each call.

“If the first-responder assesses the patient and finds that ALS service is not needed, then the volunteer can send a BLS truck to the scene,” Tripp said. “When the ALS truck reaches the scene, the ALS provider will assess the patient and determine if ALS is needed. If ALS is unnecessary, the ALS crew can hand off patient care to the BLS crew.”

The board approved Tripp’s request, but the change did not come without criticism.

Hertford County Commissioner John Pierce did not agree with the decision to change the paging protocol.

“I am not in agreement with this decision,” Pierce emphasized.

“There will only be one ALS truck,” Ahoskie Volunteer Rescue Squad President Robert Cutler said. “What if the ALS truck is responding to one call and the dispatcher gets another call that is a higher priority.”

Cutler believes the new paging protocol will not work as well the present protocol and will ultimately slow the response time to emergencies.

According to Cutler, when the 911 dispatch receives a call under the present system, dispatch pages the volunteer squads and the county EMS. Whoever gets to the scene of the emergency first takes the patient.

“Now they will not page the volunteers unless they need them,” Cutler said.