HC Board policy unfounded

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 8, 2007

WINTON – Como Mayor Irvin Stephens addressed the concerns of his constituents to the Hertford County Board of Commissioners Monday.

Stephens appeared at the regular meeting of the commission to express dissatisfaction over what was originally believed to be a policy of Hertford County Emergency Services.

Stephens said a policy, of which he had a copy, said that non-emergency patients would be transported to the nearest medical facility.

“There are people in Como and Murfreesboro who have been patients of the hospital in Franklin (Va.) for years,” Stephens said. “According to this policy, they would be transported to Franklin only in life-threatening situations.”

Stephens said he had heard from a number of citizens in the Como and Murfreesboro area saying they didn’t like the policy because they believed they had a right to be taken to Southampton Memorial Hospital if they so chose.

The mayor indicated patients would have to pay to be transported to Roanoke-Chowan Hospital in Ahoskie and then, because their doctor was in Franklin, would have to be transported again at an additional cost.

“If you have to go to Greenville or Norfolk, I have no problem with the charge,” he said. “If you pick me up at my home and take me to Ahoskie when I want to go to Franklin, then it’s wrong. I don’t care how you look at it.”

Stephens said the county had an obligation to provide medical services and added that most volunteer units in the county were no longer functioning.

“Municipalities used to have volunteer rescue squads, but you (the commissioners) pushed them out of business,” he said. “I agree people abused them as well. I didn’t come here to point fingers or name names, but I do ask you to change this policy.”

After some further discussion, County Manager Loria D. Williams informed the board the information contained on the paper Stephens had was not a policy of the county.

“It is my understanding that it came out of a staff meeting,” she said. “We do not set policy. That is the job of this governing body. We make recommendations, but you set policy.

“What is problematic for me is that we’re not policy makers, you are,” she stressed. “I’ve stressed that to Mr. Stephens and others. This did not come from this governing body.”

Commissioner Dupont A. Davis apparently took umbrage to the suggestion the county was responsible for rescue squads no longer operating in areas of the county.

“In your statement, you said we pushed Como out of business, is that correct,” Davis asked.

Stephens said he believed there were discussions between emergency management and someone at Roanoke-Chowan Hospital to upgrade qualifications of volunteers. He added that many of the volunteers could not meet the new requirements and that led to the group dissolving.

Davis said he believed most of the changes in requirements came from the state and not the county. He then asked what the commissioners could do to bring volunteers back. Stephens said he didn’t know the answer to that.

Commissioner Johnnie R. Farmer also said he didn’t believe the county had any intention of running the rescue squads out of business, but that he did want the most qualified people available on rescue calls.

After added discussion, Williams said she thought the information contained in the document Stephens had obtained had merit, but there was “a certain amount of common sense” that had to be applied, but again said it had not been adopted by the board.

Farmer asked what the document was at this moment.

“It’s not anything right now,” she said, referencing there being no board policy in place as of this moment.

Commissioner Chairman Curtis A. Freeman assured Stephens the board would address the matter.

“That paper may say policy, but it has not come before us,” he said. “We have heard from you and I appreciate you coming before us. I like to hear from people before we make a decision.”

Freeman then said the board would discuss the matter in the near future and make a determination.