Councilman feels misled over new Aiken Co. ambulances

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News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday, Sep. 3, 2013

Aiken County EMS

GRANITEVILLE, S.C. (WRDW) -- Just last week, an Aiken County EMS worker spoke up to News 12.

(To view the original investigation, see the link below.)

"When we have to deal with other people's agendas and we have to tip-toe around and feel like we're walking on eggshells, yes, it makes for a very hostile work environment at times, and a lot of people don't like it," the anonymous worker tells us.

Councilman Phil Napier was watching.

"I personally have called and asked about turnover, and I was led to believe that it wasn't that bad, but then when the News 12 story aired, we find out we've lost a third within probably less than a year. I mean, it's evident that we've got a problem," he says.

Napier says one problem is ambulances. A common formula is one ambulance for every 10,000 people. In Aiken County, the numbers don't add up. The county falls short by six ambulances. In a county with a population with roughly 160,000, there are just 10 county-owned units, and of the ambulances the county owns the anonymous worker says many are subpar.

"We have some ambulances with 400,000 plus miles on them," he says. "We should already have an entire new fleet."

"400,000 miles is a definite problem that we need some kind of program that we starting replacing," adds Napier, who represents Graniteville and other communities in Midland Valley.

However, the county has said it found money to buy four more.

"And I was told last week or the week before last that these ambulances have been ordered. I find out that over the weekend the ambulances haven't even been put out on bid yet," says Napier.

Aiken County Administrator Clay Killian confirms the badly needed ambulances haven't been ordered yet. He says it's taking time, since the county switched from Ford to Chevrolet vehicles, but Chevrolet not longer makes trucks with bigger boxes.

"We have had to go back to the drawing board with the specs to get a vehicle big enough to carry the weight of the bigger box," writes Killian.

As for Napier, he feels misled. He says just last week he was told by an assistant county administrator that the four ambulances had been ordered.

"Possibly the gentlemen that told me that may have been misinformed, but if that's the case, someone has lied to him," says Napier.

County Administrator Killian says the four ambulances should be ordered soon, but for some, not soon enough.

"Something has got to be done. Either Aiken County needs to get in the ambulance service or get out of it," says Napier.

Of course, Napier says even with the four new ambulances, Aiken County EMS might be so short-staffed to the point they can't even use them.

This past Saturday, on Labor Day weekend, only six out of nine EMS substations were open. County Administrator Killian says the private services helped out though, and he thinks the coverage was sufficient, but he admits they are short-staffed.

Meanwhile, the State of South Carolina is investigating Aiken County EMS after the News 12 investigation aired last week. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) did a surprise inspection of the ambulances on Friday. News 12 is told by DHEC that the finding should be made public as early as Wednesday. However, Killian estimates that any violations will be minor.

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