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NET nears break-even

ASKEWVILLE – Bertie County Emergency Management Services Director Mitch Cooper reported to the county’s Board of Commissioners at their monthly meeting here March 16 with an update on the county’s non-emergency transport (NET) system. NET is part of the county’s Emergency Medical Services program, and the EMS Director led off with a presentation on the calls the service has undertaken since its inception.

Cooper presented data showing the 122-day period when the county EMS began non-emergency transport, Aug. 1-to Dec. 31 2014, its seven-day-a-week operation staffed two trucks – one operating on a 24 hour schedule, the other on an eight hour rotation – at a cost to the county of just under $1,200 per day.

“We did this to get started, to meet the needs of the hospital (Vidant Bertie) and the surrounding hospital facilities to make sure we were able to meet their needs and to get up and running,” Cooper said.

For a little more than the first two months of 2015 – Jan. 1-to-March 3 – or, 44 days, there was a reduction in force to a five-day-a-week operation; still staffing two trucks, but on an eight hour rotation for both, and it reduced the cost down to just barely over $800 per day or $16,000 monthly for the system’s operation.

“That’s everything,” Cooper said.  “As you can see we’ve cut our operating cost significantly.”

Cooper estimates approximately 5,000 NET transports annually in Bertie County with many of these wait-and-returns, such as dialysis treatments and doctor visits.  NET trucks are also equipped for paramedic care.

Commission vice-chair Tammy Lee asked Cooper what was the largest call volume for NET.

“Doctor’s appointment procedures,” he answered. “For a bedridden patient or someone who can’t walk that needs a stretcher to be moved.”

Cooper cited outpatient transports to Edgecombe County and as far away as Charleston, SC; and, that many transports are from nursing homes and nursing home care.

Chairman Ronald D. “Ron” Wesson asked Cooper when he expected the non-emergency transports to offset necessary losses incurred through the regular 9-1-1 EMS service.  Cooper stated it would be in about 120 days, or four months time, when the NET would reach a break-even point financially.

“Within the next year to 18 months we’re looking to be able to put money back into our EMS deficit,” Cooper stated.

Wesson remarked there was enough NET business in the area so there would be no need to pass the cost on to the county’s citizens to fund the enterprise.

“We want to continue to provide the highest level and the same quality care ( in Paramedic EMS) that our volunteers did, but with that comes the cost to be ready, and with the NET program we can reduce that deficit so that the citizens of this county can have it,” Cooper said.

During a citizen inquiry period, Cooper said 20 percent of the NET calls are initiated outside Bertie County, but the money, in the form of fees collected, comes back into the county.

Commissioner Stewart White requested monthly updates be reported back to the board from the EMS Director in order to track progress.

“We’re going to follow this to make sure we are spending the (taxpayers’) money wisely,” Wesson said.