Aiken Co. councilman: Change in EMS leadership might be needed

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, July 15, 2013

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- Since the news first broke, there's been a whirlpool of some outrage and a lot of controversy.

"We definitely need to take a hard look at what happened and what we can do about it," said Aiken County Councilman Andrew Siders.

Siders says he's gravely concerned about what could be going on at Aiken County Emergency Medical Services.

"A child lost his life, and that's what we need to be, first and foremost, concerned with, and my heart goes out to the family. My heart goes out to those involved," says Siders.

Just days ago, a 2-year-old boy was accidentally hit and killed in Wagener, and there have been major concerns about what some say was a less than perfect EMS response.

Days after the incident, News 12 first uncovered an email typed up by another member of council and sent to top county leaders. In the letter, Councilwoman Kathy Rawls called EMS leaders "idiots."

"In a situation like this, where someone loses their life, and the report is coming out, so we don't know everything, but everything is on the table right now. Definitely," Siders said.

Siders says that may include a change in the leadership over EMS.

"Well, first of all, I think we need to take a look at the standards," he said. "We need to make sure that we are within standards, and if we are, we need to take a look at management. We need to make sure our management is up to par, and if not, we need to make changes."

In fact, News 12 received a letter, written by a current EMS paramedic, that says, "Management. Where do I begin? I've never seen such a poorly managed, or mismanaged, company."

"The level of incompetence displayed by our management staff is astounding," it continues, further stating that there are numerous other problems with equipment, levels of pay, and response times.

News 12 is told by multiple sources that management, among these other reasons, is why so many paramedics have quit.

"From what I understand, the turnover is very great," Siders said. "I'm not sure exactly what that's caused by, but anytime you have that kind of turnover, you definitely need to take a look at the underlying cause."

As for the Wagener incident, Aiken County management has published a report analyzing the response.

While the report found that there was a delay in finding the scene of the accident by paramedics and there seems to be a delay by paramedics in driving to the helicopter in Pelion, the report says everything was generally done within protocol.

"Looking at the bigger picture, we are continuing our review of EMS policies, procedures and management to see what changes and improvements need to be made," writes County Administrator Clay Killian in the email to council members.

While EMS issues aren't scheduled to be discussed during Tuesday night's county council meeting, News 12 is told that multiple people and officials concerned about the EMS issues might show up. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Aiken County Council Building on Richland Avenue.

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