UPDATE….Paramedics will be retained in Hyde County
Hyde County commissioners voted Monday night, Oct. 18, to retain
paramedic-level emergency services in Hyde County.
4-to-1 vote, the commissioners approved Interim County Manager
David M. Smitherman’s recommendation to hire two additional full-time
paramedics, which will reduce overtime and the over-reliance on
staff currently are five paramedics with one vacant position for a
total of six available positions. Monday’s action authorized Smitherman
to advertise for three paramedics. That will bring the total
number of paramedics to eight and retain the current staff of basic and
plan, devised with the help of paramedics Brian Carter and
Jeff Hibbard, also includes changing staff scheduling, eliminating the
chase vehicle on the mainland, and exploring the cost of outsourcing
billing or enhancing the in-house collections to achieve better
chairman Tom Davis voted no, saying the plan will cost too much.
in the day, the commissioners held another special meeting
specifically to discuss the EMS budget, which was approved in June for
issue was whether this would be a true number by the end of next
June and if the commissioners would receive a request for more money
late in the fiscal year as happened this year.
fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30. The budget is online
Sharon Spencer, in her successful motion, insisted that no
one on the current staff of basic and intermediate EMTs be let go.
Several in the Swan Quarter audience applauded.
it will take some time before the new paramedics are on board and
the savings are realized, the commissioners will review in January how
this plan is working.
pay is inevitable for a service that requires 24-hour
coverage. Smitherman’s plan builds a known quantity of overtime pay
into the expenses, while also allowing for unplanned contingencies.
properly staffed, overtime will be considerably less,”
Smitherman said. “If we get the right staff on the ground, we’ll be
year’s budget includes $190,000 in overtime pay. Salary figures
are $705,000 for full-time staff and $90,000 for part-time.
the county wants to grow the EMS service from within—giving
opportunities for current EMTs to become paramedics and stay in the
county, Smitherman said. Beaufort County Community College only
recently improved its paramedic program. So it will take some time for
more local people to become trained. In the
hiring of three fulltime paramedics now will result in overtime savings.
for billing, Smitherman said he thinks the collection revenues of
$390,000 are too low and that he is exploring the costs of outsourcing
billing, which might yield a better collection rate than the current 42
percent. Requests for proposals are being sent Oct. 19 to eight firms
across the nation who do this work, including the Ocracoke Health
Center. Billing had been outsourced but was brought back in-house in
Swain, the EMS director in Tyrell County, commented at Monday
night’s meeting that Tyrell has a 61 percent collection rate with
an outsourcing billing company called EMS Management Consultant
explained that part of the reason the collection rate is so
low is that Medicare and Medicaid pay only a fraction of what each
emergency run actually costs, which is $859.
and Medicaid reimbursement rates change quarterly, he said,
and these agencies will only pay up to 80 percent of what is billed,
never 100 percent.
Spencer noted that private insurance is supposed to pick up
that 20 percent.
no one reimburses the county for the 400-plus responses that
don’t result in transport to a medical facility.
Daye, a paramedic on the mainland, asked the commissioners to
hire a department head to manage the EMS service. Hyde County is
currently without an EMS director and has seen several come and go in
the last few years.
don’t have a boss man except for Mr. Smitherman,” Day said.
service was put into effect countywide in 2009.
Before that, only Ocracoke Island had paramedics, while the rest of
Hyde County had basic- and intermediate-level EMTs.
2009, the entire EMS expense budget was $928,672. The
estimated total EMS expense for 2010, as of April 30, was $1,430,916,
according to the most recent budget online.
other action: Smitherman will be gone at the end of January and the
county has received several applications for county manager. The
current plan is for these applicants to be reviewed and an offer of
employment be made sometime in December, so that a new person can start
in January for some overlap with Smitherman.
Etheridge, chairman of the ABC board, reported that while there was
a low inventory of liquor in July, it is getting back on track.
Hurricane Earl’s arrival during Labor Day weekend caused a $6,000 to
$9,000 loss in sales revenues.
questioning by Anson Byrd asking for an income, cash flow, and
balance sheet, Etheridge said the ABC checking account has a balance of
$38,119. Liquor bills total $40,532.
also said as to inventory, there is $55,441.06 worth in the
Mattamuskeet warehouse and $23,768 worth on Ocracoke.
Darlene Styron asked Etheridge for a breakdown between the
sales on Ocracoke and the mainland.
Leinbach is also a reporter for The Observer in Ocracoke)