First Med chosen

Published 8:02 am Thursday, July 18, 2013

COLERAIN – By a unanimous decision the Bertie County Commissioners have voted to have private ambulance company manage and operate the county’s Emergency Medical Services program.

Meeting for the second time away from their regular Windsor meeting place, the commissioners met at the Colerain Volunteer Fire Department building on Monday evening.

On the agenda would be the vote on the future of emergency services for the county with the objective of providing the most capable emergency medical services with rapid emergency responders at the advanced life support level within the legal boundaries of the county, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year.

A study conducted years ago sought to provide answers regarding moving to a more efficient, better qualified county-wide system and the resulting information gathered included several EMS systems including the 24/7/365 E-911 system which nearby Hertford County is adopting.

With one commissioner, Rick Harrell, absent due to illness, the commissioners voted 4-0 to award the service to First Med EMS, Incorporated.

First Med began in 1988 as a small, family owned ambulance company on the eastern shore of Virginia, performing about 500 transports per year. Today, as the largest private ambulance group in the Southeast, the First Med family of companies transports over 100,000 patients per year and has over 300 employees.

First Med operations include companies in Wilmington NC, where they are headquartered, along with satellite offices in Hampton and Portsmouth, VA.

The First Med proposal for Bertie County includes five trucks; each staffed with at least one person with paramedical certification.

Their subsidy from the county will be $310,000 a year.

“I believe the commissioners took the proper steps to do what was best for the citizens of Bertie County,” said county Emergency Management Services director, Mitch Cooper.

Cooper went on to add that one deciding factor were the job opportunities.

“They say they hope to employ 25 full-time EMT’s complete with benefits, as well as 12 part-time, and that they would like to do the hiring process from within current employees,” he noted.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what they will bring to the employees and citizens of the county,” Cooper said.

“We had a great turnout for this,” said newly appointed County Manager Scott Sauer.

He added, “This is a bold step for the county and it achieves three things: number-one, it brings us in compliance with general statutes so service provision county-wide is balanced and equal for all across the county.”

Sauer went on to point out, “Secondly, it balances the services. This includes level of care, and it advances that care now to the paramedical level of service.  The level of training of the service providers now will be equitable. Whereas now some services are basic (EMT), some are advanced, others EMT-1 (intermediate), all will now be at the paramedical level.

“Thirdly, it elevates the level of service to the highest for pre-hospital care. Our goal is to have a response time of 20 minutes; and given some of the remote areas of Bertie County that is a significant target to try to achieve”, he added.

“Emergency responders talk about the ‘Golden Hour’, being able to attend to patients in the first 60 minutes and thus enhance the quality of life,” said Sauer. “This is a very significant move forward that the county commissioners are willing to take.”

First Med Vice President of Business Development, Sabrena Collins wrote the proposal that was submitted to the commissioners. Contacted in her Wilmington office by the News-Herald, she said First Med has been doing business for years in Virginia and North Carolina, and much of it in rural areas.

“The same concerns and issues rural communities face are what we have dealt with over the years,” said Collins. “We feel we have the experience and we look forward to moving forward in Bertie County.”

Collins went on to add, “Paired with our experience and local knowledge we feel we will provide a good service to the county’s residents.

“We hope there are people in Bertie County who would like to come and work for us,” she said. “We’re going to look to hire here first. In addition to providing a service we will provide jobs and benefits to the community. Based on the data, we hope to have more opportunities to hire more people as the community grows.”