Staffing still an issue as new EMS substation prepares for opening

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, Jan. 24, 2014

MONETTA, S.C. (WRDW) -- Randy Clayton is a Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket who's severely allergic to bee stings, which is why he has to be careful doing yard-work. However, in just days, a new Aiken County EMS substation will open up near the corner of Highway 39 and Wire Road outside Monetta. It's practically walking distance from Clayton's home.

"If there's an emergency, I can just make a quick phone call," he tells News 12. "They'll be here in a matter of seconds, really."

Right now, the area is served by either a station near the Aiken airport or one in downtown Wagener. As Clayton's neighbor Chris Bryant testify, response times can be slow sometimes.

"I had a grandfather that had a stroke and a heart attack, and it took probably about 30 minutes for somebody to get out here," he says.

"There's just so many minutes there that they call the 'Golden Hour.' If an ambulance or personnel can get on the scene quickly, it could save lives," adds Councilman Phil Napier of Graniteville.

Napier says having an ambulance in the more rural area of the county will make the county's emergency coverage better.

"I am in full support of this station and opening this station, but my concern is do we have the personnel and the equipment to put in it," he says.

An ambulance will be there, but County Administrator Clay Killian says staffing is still an issue. He says with nine other stations, there's a chance the station might sometimes be closed.

"On numerous occasions, I've called and found out we've have one or two or there have even been times with two-and-a-half stations closed a day," says Napier.

The county administrator says, with the help of private services, the county will continue to have good ambulance coverage while they focus on hiring.

Clayton hopes that all the stations will soon be fully staffed all the time.

"We need more people to do the jobs," he says.

EMS Director Tommy Thompson has been hard at work doing just that. He says he has brought on one for part-time work last week, two more full-time, three more two days ago, and he just sent three more applications to county HR. If they hire those three, he says Aiken County EMS will have just four or five more spots to fill.

Thompson says the staffing problem is one that is being felt across the nation. He says there's a huge demand for medics all over the country, even locally. He says sometimes it's hard to compete with places with better pay.

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