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Paging protocol unchanged

WINTON – After a marathon meeting Monday, the Hertford County Board of Commissioners voted to keep the present EMS paging protocol.

The board considered a request to return to the former paging protocol, but based on advice from Hertford County Medical Director Dr. Joe Tripp they voted to keep the present method.

The board voted in January to change the EMS paging protocol to its current form.

The protocol in place now continues to use a dual page system, but no longer pages out two ambulances for each call. The system pages the volunteer stations for a first-responder on each call and Hertford County EMS for Advanced Life Support (ALS).

Hertford County EMS recently obtained the ability to provide ALS services. The ALS trucks with the EMT-Intermediate personnel possesses capabilities the Basic Life Support trucks do not have, including the ability to start IV’s and giving upper level medication.

“We based our decision on the information Dr. Tripp provided,” Hertford County Commissioner Howard Hunter III said.

“The board wants to provide ALS to all Hertford County citizens and is required to do so by the state,” Hunter added.

“We are providing an ALS truck to all of our calls now,” Dr. Tripp said.

“The upgrade in service was the reason we changed the paging protocol.

“This is a direct patient care issue and this increases coverage of ALS service,” Tripp added.

The issue has created controversy among the volunteer rescue squads in the county, especially Ahoskie Rescue Squad. Many of the volunteers feel they are being phased out by the new system.

Robert Cutler, President of the Ahoskie Rescue Squad, sent a letter to Hertford County Manager Loria Williams expressing his concerns about the new paging protocol.

Cutler argued the changes made in January will have a “detrimental impact on the safety and quality of care of the citizens of Hertford County.”

“In numerous cases, Ahoskie Rescue Squad was the only reliable back-up to the Hertford County EMS crew in multiple vehicle accidents or complicated medical cases,” Cutler said. “Since 1957, we have been known to be a cost effective and reliable volunteer resource to this county.”

Cutler argued the changes are counterproductive and will undermine the quality of care for the citizens of Hertford County.

“Are the volunteers being put out of business,” Board chairman Curtis Freeman asked.

“They are being paged out as first responders,” Tripp answered. “The system would work better if we could get everyone on board.”

“I am still for having a truck in every quadrant if the county,” Commissioner John Pierce said. “It would greatly reduce the response time.”

“We can’t put that into play now,” Tripp said. “We don’t have all of the pieces together.”

The commissioners asked Tripp if the present paging system is the best method.

“In the eyes of the Medical Director, yes,” Tripp answered.

In related business, the board heard a presentation from John Farkas of JKF Architecture concerning the EMS building expansion. The expansion includes a 4,000 square foot addition to house six truck bays, office space, a training center as well as new restrooms and two sleeping rooms.

“This (expansion) will be extremely functional,” Farkas said.

OSHA regulations required the board to expand and improve the present EMS building, Freeman said.

“They are sleeping on the floor now,” Freeman added.

“The renovations are extensive,” Williams said. “We wanted to do this right.”

The estimated construction cost for the expansion totals $706,729.