Smithfield Herald

County debates medical transport

A second medical-transport service began operating in Johnston County three weeks ago, and already the county’s EMS board wants to add a third.

At their meeting Nov. 3, County Commissioners learned that EMS leaders want to add Raleigh-based North State Medical Transport to a list that already includes Johnston Ambulance Service and Rex Hospital Transport Services.

Rex Hospital Transport Services, which focuses mostly on critical-care transport, launched here Oct. 20.

County Commissioner DeVan Barbour wanted to know why the EMS board would recommend adding a third provider so soon after the second one launched. Commissioners’ Chairman Jeff Carver noted that since Rex is specialized, the county might need another company to provide the same level of transport services as Johnston Ambulance Service, or JAS.

Josh Holloman, the county’s EMS training officer, said a growing county needs more private ambulances to transport people to nursing homes and doctor offices. Also, a third transport service could back up the county’s EMS squads in the event of a widespread emergency, he said.

“As we grow as a county and call volume from EMS transport companies continues to increase, there have been anticipated delays,” Holloman said. Also, “if there was a situation, they could back us up and be able to assist in a disaster.”

JAS representative Jason Thompson was on hand for the commissioners’ meeting. He asked the county not to add North State to the mix, arguing that doing so could cost JAS money.

Thompson noted that JAS provides roughly $3,000 weekly in free transport for the indigent. That shows a commitment to a county where JAS has long done business, he said.

Thompson encouraged county leaders to measure Rex’s impact on private medical-transport services before OK’ing a third provider. “I don’t think anybody’s had time to analyze what impact Rex is going to have on our business,” he said.

Commissioner Barbour said the county shouldn’t place JAS’s bottom line before the needs of Johnston residents.

Commissioner Tony Braswell noted that Johnston added a second provider because of poor JAS service under previous leadership. “We really had a breakdown in service with JAS,” he said. “I sat in meetings with the former CEO and CFO on two occasions. They failed to make a call at the hospital. and that’s because they were at a meeting with us. That was the beginning of when we went down the road.”

Although JAS’s service has improved, Commissioner Allen Mims said any new EMS provider in Johnston should have to sign a stricter contract to ensure greater accountability. Mims also fretted about allowing multiple providers because of the confusion it could create among Johnston residents.

Carlie Coward, a North State representative, was also at the meeting. She said Johnston needs more medical-transport providers because it’s the state’s sixth-fastest growing county.

“I think we’re kind of losing sight that this isn’t about private business; it’s about Johnston County residents and them having options,” Coward said. “I don’t see how letting someone new in will hurt unless it will hurt call volume for JAS. It will only help.”

Commissioners agreed to table discussion on adding North State for 30 days to see Rex’s impact on transport services.

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