Gaston EMS franchise terminated by county

Published 5:03 pm Friday, April 5, 2024

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JACKSON – Northampton County EMS has been working to fill in a coverage gap left behind by Gaston EMS over the past few weeks.

That’s what Casey Griggs, Interim Northampton County EMS Director, reported to the Board of Commissioners during their regular meeting on Monday, April 1.

“Gaston EMS is no longer providing EMS services,” Griggs stated, but added that Gaston Fire & Rescue is still part of the county’s first responders program.

He did not provide an explanation on why Gaston EMS had ceased operations. Instead, Griggs explained what Northampton EMS has been doing to make sure citizens in the Gaston and Garysburg areas continue to receive EMS service when needed.

One of the ambulance crews based out of Jackson has been covering that area of the county during “peak hours” (8 a.m. to 8 p.m.), splitting the 12-hour shift into two six-hour shifts. During non-peak hours, the county EMS crew in Jackson responds to calls east of I-95 and the county EMS crew in Henrico responds to the ones west of I-95.

Griggs said he has been in discussion with the mayors of both Garysburg and Gaston to find a place to shelter the ambulances closer to that service area. Ideally, that place would be close to I-95, which Griggs noted is in the middle of the coverage area, approximately 4.5 minutes from Gaston and 5.5 minutes from Garysburg.

“Garysburg Fire Department has made temporary arrangements such as sleeping quarters, lounging, kitchen access, restrooms, and has spared one of their bays to house our ambulance,” Griggs reported.

With that arrangement, Griggs said they are able to expand from peak hour coverage to 24-hour coverage beginning on April 1.

“Our goal should include EMS response times less than 12 minutes throughout the county,” he also stated, explaining that having a station located near I-95 would allow county EMS to achieve that goal.

In addition to the county EMS stations in Jackson and Henrico, there are also stations in Conway and Rich Square.

“As far as coverage provided by Northampton County EMS, the county is providing quicker response times to Garysburg and Gaston area than ever before,” Griggs concluded.

Board Chair Charles Tyner thanked Griggs for the update, noting that they had some concerns about making sure all citizens in the county were being served by EMS.

“And from what I heard you say tonight, our citizens are being served. I even heard you say with less minutes than they have in the past,” Tyner said.

Commissioner Kelvin Edwards also thanked Griggs and the EMS crews for providing quality service to the county.

The News Herald reached out to Northampton County for more information about the situation with Gaston EMS (also known as Gaston Volunteer Rescue Squad).

Scott McKellar, an attorney who serves as legal counsel to the county commissioners, stated that Gaston EMS was a franchisee under the county’s ordinance regulating ambulance service. On March 5, however, the county issued a notice of franchise termination and immediate suspension to Gaston EMS.

According to that notice, operations would cease immediately and the franchise would be terminated effective 60 days from the service of the letter. Failure to comply could result in misdemeanor or civil penalties.

McKellar also noted that under the county’s ambulance regulation ordinance, a reason is not required for the franchise to be terminated. The only requirement is the 60-day written notice.

“Any investigations at the county level relating to the performance of Gaston EMS would have been performed by the Northampton County Emergency Medical Services Peer Review Committee,” McKellar continued. “In general, this committee serves as the oversight and review committee for the Northampton EMS system.”

McKellar cited NC General Statute 131E-95 to note that information and documents obtained by, considered by, or generated by the committee are “confidential and privileged material and cannot be disclosed.”