The York County Council needs to set the terms of the contract with Piedmont Medical Center to administer emergency medical services in the county. The council has had ample time to consider the details of the proposal, and members need to act.
The terms of the county EMS contract have been discussed off and on for more than a year by county staff, county council and representatives of both PMC and the county’s other ambulance services. In December, however, a vote on the contract again was delayed after then-County Manager Jim Baker said the details of the contract had not been nailed down.
The issue came up for a vote again at the Feb. 4 meeting but, despite the urging of Council Chairman Britt Blackwell and Councilman Chad Williams, the vote was delayed once again. Blackwell said the issue has been “beaten to death.”
PMC ambulances and smaller rescue squads compete across the county to offer emergency patient care, which sometimes results in two competing squads arriving at the scene of an emergency at the same time. The county has sought to devise a system that would increase efficiency, reduce duplication of services and decrease the hazards of multiple ambulances rushing to the scene of a medical emergency.
But county officials also are aware that smaller rescue squads provide a vital service, especially in the more remote parts of the county. PMC emergency crews could not cover the entire county by themselves.
State law requires the county to select a medical control physician who sets patient care standards for all EMS providers countywide and determines who gets to provide services. Under the current contract proposal, the county would select a physician and an assistant with Piedmont’s approval, and PMC would pay that physician and assistant at no cost to the county.
That, we think, is a reasonable solution – as long as the county retains the authority to fire the control physician if necessary.
We understand the concerns of rescue squads that PMC would use a heavy hand to control emergency services to its financial benefit. But the reality is that PMC cannot meet the need by itself and will have to rely on other squads to serve portions of the county.
Still, someone needs to be able to certify standards and ensure that all EMS services can meet them. The emergency response system needs to be coordinated or the result will be chaos.
Having PMC pick up the cost for the medical control physician and an assistant benefits the county. Again, though, the county manager should have the authority to fire both if they are not performing to the county’s satisfaction.
Some council members say more time is needed to make a decision on the contract. We think more than a year is long enough.
It’s a tough decision that will disappoint a number of first responders in the county, but it’s a decision that has to be made for the welfare people of this county.