After passionate meeting, Aiken Co. Council eyeing EMS policy changes

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- It wasn't on the agenda, but the Aiken County Council spent most of its time talking about problems with Emergency Medical Services.

After a the recent death of a 2-year-old in Wagener, there's been a a lot of controversy about what some have called delayed response times, problems with communication and policies blocking firefighters from dispatching helicopters effectively.

The Wagener incident has rattled the beehive. Multiple fire chiefs tell News 12 and the council Tuesday night, that these problems are recurring ones.

In front of a row of fire chiefs and other fire personnel, Chief Mark Redd of Wagener Fire Department addressed council.

Recently, Assistant County Administrator Andrew Merriman released a report saying EMS workers followed protocol in the case of the fatality in Wagener.

"The report isn't factual," Redd said. "[The child] didn't get the chance that he deserved."

Redd estimated that 20 minutes were lost by EMS in the response on July 4 to the home near A.L. Corbett Middle School.

But Redd continued by stating other specific cases that showed what he called an "asinine" helicopter policy.

Right now, firefighters and first responders must wait for EMS to be on the scene before a helicopter can be dispatched. Redd and others say that often costs precious minutes.

Redd said under the Emergency Powers Act, the firefighter on scene is truly the incident commander. Councilman Phil Napier, also a fire chief, agreed.

"My thing is sustaining life," Napier said. "How many people have got to die over a policy?"

The county had no immediate fix or answer, but most council members appeared engaged and concerned with the discussion.

Councilwoman Lawana McKenzie suggested another committee meeting to devise a policy fix that may appear on the next council meeting's agenda.

Councilman Chuck Smith suggested a third party examine the computer aided dispatch report and audio tape of the Wagener incident.

Councilman Scott Singer suggested a need to cut out red tape in current EMS policies related to dispatching helicopters.

Meanwhile, Councilwoman Kathy Rawls, who pushed the issue immediately after the Wagener fatality, continued pushing for change.

County Administrator Clay Killian wouldn't comment directly to News 12.

A meeting has been scheduled between Killian and Redd for Friday.

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