Growing pains: EMS facility, staffing to get study


Ambulances are shown inside the bays at Pasquotank-Camden Emergency Medical Services main station next to Sentara Albemarle Medical Center, Friday. Because of the rise in EMS' call volume, both Pasquotank and Camden are seeking a study of the agency's future facility and staffing needs.


By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Monday, April 16, 2018

With calls for service steadily increasing, Pasquotank and Camden officials are starting to plan for the future of their shared ambulance service.

Pasquotank County Manager Sparty Hammett reported last week that he and Camden County Manager Ken Bowman are reviewing a proposal from Mission Critical Partners, headquartered in Port Matilda, Pa., to study Pasquotank-Camden Emergency Medical Services’ future facility and staffing needs.

MCP was the only company to respond to a request for proposals the counties issued for the study, Hammett said. MCP is the same firm that helped Pasquotank and Camden plan upgrades to first-responders’ radio systems two years ago. It’s asking for almost $40,000 to perform the EMS study.

Hammett said the EMS board, which includes Pasquotank and Camden commissioners, will discuss the study and likely bring a recommendation to county commissioners next month.

EMS Director Jerry Newell said Friday his agency requested the study because call volume is growing and EMS is “bursting at the seams” in its 35-year-old main station next to Sentara Albemarle Medical Center.

Newell said call volumes exceeded 1,000 a month in every month of 2017. That’s an 11-percent increase from calendar year 2016, and demand is likely to continue to increase as residential development in both Pasquotank and Camden continues.

Newell also said EMS crews sometimes field 50 calls in a day.

“These folks are getting a tremendous workout,” he said.

Additionally, Newell said there’s little to no room for additional personnel or ambulances at the main station, though EMS does spread equipment and personnel to various satellite stations in both counties, including in South Mills.

Newell also explained that EMS needs to plan for growth so that it can maintain good coverage response times throughout both Pasquotank and Camden counties. He stressed EMS crews are meeting their benchmark for emergency response times, which is to get to the scene of calls within 9 minutes at least 90 percent of the time.

If EMS doesn’t plan for the future and grow in the right ways, the agency could face call delays, Newell said.

Newell said EMS will likely need both a new main station — a multi-million-dollar expense — and to boost its staff, which now includes 58 full-time and 30 part-time employees. He also said EMS will likely need to man the South Mills station 24 hours a day, rather than 12 hours a day as it does currently.

Pasquotank Commissioner Jeff Dixon, an EMS board member, said Friday Pasquotank and Camden haven’t completed a strategic plan for EMS in many years, so a new one is needed.

The study will also need to project EMS’ future costs, and how much of a revenue shortfall the counties might have to cover in future years. Counties typically have to subsidize EMS operations, but Pasquotank-Camden EMS has done well limiting the size of the shortfall, Dixon said. Notably, Pasquotank-Camden EMS generates significant revenues through non-emergency medical transports.