Eastside EMS suspends operations

Published 4:34 pm Friday, April 21, 2023

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RICH SQUARE – A private company that answers emergency medical calls in the Rich Square area has suspended its service until further notice.

Eastside EMS, which operates from a building on West Jackson Street in Rich Square, suspended operations effective at 12 noon on Thursday.

According to Paul Nowell, Emergency Medical Services Director for Northampton County, the decision to suspend operations was made by Sherwynn Best, chair of the board of directors that oversees Eastside EMS.

Nowell said that Eastside has been experiencing several issues, to include staffing.

“Due to a lack of personnel, they’ve only been able to answer medical calls roughly 50 percent of the time,” Nowell said. “Plus they’ve been experiencing mechanical issues with their vehicles. They were shut down the entire month of December [2022] due to truck issues.

“Mrs. Best told me that Eastside EMS needs to reorganize; they need some time to work through their issues,” Nowell added.

Nowell said he sympathizes with Eastside EMS over their personnel issues.

“It’s getting harder to recruit people to perform this type of work, especially here in rural areas where the salaries tend to be lower than the bigger counties and cities,” he stressed.

He noted that Eastside EMS is a not-for-profit company that operates from revenues provided through the services they provide. They also receive an annual contribution from Northampton County Local Government. The county also handles all the billing for Eastside EMS.

When asked if Eastside EMS not being able to help answer emergency medical calls in the Rich Square area would have a impact on Northampton EMS, Nowell said he didn’t foresee any issues.

“We operate under a tier system, meaning both Northampton EMS and Eastside EMS are dispatched to the same calls in that area of the county,” Nowell explained. Northampton EMS is the primary responder. Eastside EMS, due to them being closer, would sometimes arrive on the scene before the county truck. If it was a call that only needed EMT-level care, they would take care of it and the responding Northampton EMS truck would return to the station.”

Nowell added that 85 percent of the calls for medical assistance throughout the county can be handled by staff with EMT-level certification. The other 15 percent are more serious calls that require Paramedic-level certification.

Meanwhile, Nowell noted that the Rich Square Fire Department has taken on more of a role as a medical first responder. He said several of those firemen have either obtained EMT certification or are currently taking classes.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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