revised EMD program
By Nancy Lindsey
The Patrick County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Monday night to approve a revised plan presented by Sheriff Dan Smith to implement an emergency medical dispatch (EMD) program for the county E-911 Dispatch Center.
On June 9, the supervisors rejected Smith's original plan to add two full-time and two part-time dispatchers at a cost of $106,330, saying they thought the program could be implemented without hiring additional people.
Smith said his revised plan will cost $20,900 for the second half of the 2014-2015 fiscal year (January 1 to July 1), with most of that money to be obtained through a grant from the Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services.
The board directed Steve Allen, emergency management coordinator, to apply for the grant by the deadline later this summer.
The funds will pay for training current dispatchers, overtime pay, and setting up a flip-down card system which gives them information about interacting with callers on emergency medical issues, Smith said.
The dispatchers will come to the center on their days off to be trained a total of 24 hours over three days, Smith said. In addition, dispatchers will rotate working overtime for six hours a day, six days a week, adding 36 hours to the schedule.
"That's the most versatile way to address the peak hours that need to be covered, daytime hours Monday through Saturday," Smith said.
If the grant is approved and training moves forward, the EMD system could be in effect by Jan. 1, Smith said.
The second full year of the program, 2015-2016, will cost about $36,800, Smith said.
Smith said earlier that the E-911 Dispatch Center averages 95 calls per day and that about 80% of the calls are related to law enforcement.
Dan River District Supervisor Roger Hayden, who had opposed the system in the past based on its cost, said he had heard of parents whose child was choking and the dispatchers were not allowed to tell them what to do.
"Right now they can't give you any medical advice," Smith said. "The goal is that they'll be able to."
Smith said adults are generally expected to be resourceful, but today there are so many children staying home alone because their parents have to work.
"We'd like to know they can pick up the phone and get help while the ambulance is enroute," Smith said. "It takes rescue units a long time to respond at times, and this is a very important thing to implement. Our dispatchers are a very professional bunch, and they feel handicapped when they can't help someone."
"I don't think the people of Patrick County understand," Hayden said. "I didn't until this was brought up."
Smith River District Supervisor Crystal Harris, board chairman, commended the dispatchers and said, "they don't get paid enough for what they do...I hear the frustration in their voices."
Peters Creek District Supervisor Lock Boyce said he understood that EMD would probably be state-mandated in a year or two.
Smith said he thought the program would be mandated within five years.
Mayo River District Supervisor Danny Foley said the fire and rescue personnel he had spoken with were in favor of the program.
Blue Ridge District Supervisor Karl Weiss, who has spoken out strongly in favor of implementing the EMD program in Patrick County, said, "this is great news."
However, the situation is still serious, Weiss said.
Weiss said his mother recently fell and was "bleeding profusely." Her 11-year-old granddaughter called 911, but the dispatcher couldn't tell her anything, he said.
When his mother got to the hospital, the staff was unable to stop the bleeding, Weiss said. She needed to be taken to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., but there was no transport available, Weiss said.
Someone drove Weiss' mother to Baptist Hospital with Harris, who is captain of the Smith River Rescue Center, riding along, Weiss said.
"We've got major problems in this county," Weiss said.
Boyce, who has also opposed the EMD program in past months, made the motion to implement the program as outlined by the sheriff.