Efforts are being made to lower the average emergency response time for Orange County after it was scrutinized for falling below the state average.
Orange County Emergency Services and South Orange Rescue Squad renewed a partnership earlier this month in which Emergency Medical Services will provide the rescue squad, an all-volunteer staff based in Carrboro, with a paramedic in their ambulances.
This allows the rescue squad to provide more complicated care, essentially making them an additional EMS unit.
Capt. Kim Woodward, operations manager at Orange County EMS, said the rescue squad can only provide basic life support on its own while Orange County EMS can provide advanced paramedic support, such as cardiac medication.
Woodward said South Orange will run one of its own ambulances three times a week with an Orange County EMS paramedic in the car.
They will also run during the surge times, when EMS receives the most calls.
“They are providing the paramedic, and we are providing the ambulance and two EMTs,” South Orange Rescue Squad Chief Matthew Mauzy said.
Since Orange County EMS discovered their ambulance response time fell below the state’s average, they have been brainstorming new ways to get back on target.
Orange County Emergency Services has a goal to bring the average response time down from 17 minutes to 12.
Chapel Hill Fire Chief Dan Jones said that EMS is running the same amount of ambulances as they did 12 years ago but that the population has increased, and services have to constantly try to keep up.
When resources are stretched thin among EMS, the fire department has to stretch its own resources.
The fire department acts as first responders in many emergencies and has had to wait longer until a paramedic arrives.
Woodward said in an April interview that the county’s funding for EMS has not been kept up.
EMS did not get the amount of funding it requested in the 2010-11 fiscal year budget.
Since then, EMS has thought about tweaking the locations of their ambulances and making better use of their volunteer and part-time EMS workers.
With the partnership, there will be more resources covering places with high call volume, Mauzy said.
Woodward said they also hope to run an extra ambulance from South Orange seven nights a week, 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Jones said that the renewed partnership will slowly remove stress from the fire department but that it won’t be enough.
He said the county budget will need to add another unit next year.
Jones said Emergency Services will also be adding two more 12-hour paramedic units to Orange County — one in the next couple of months and the other in 2011.
She said they are working with a moving target but will continue evaluating and working toward getting enough resources out in the county.
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