BAMBERG COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) — A new service provider is taking over emergency calls in Bamberg County, South Carolina. This after the contract of a local rescue organization was canceled.
“I don’t understand why it was such an urgency all of a sudden,” Captain Roger Hughes told NewsChannel 6’s Shawn Cabbagestalk.
Hughes and his Bamberg Rescue Squad have been serving Bamberg County for more than 40 years. Hughes has been there since its inception. That service is now over as of midnight on October 1.
It was an emergency that officials said which caused them to immediately bring in Anderson-based Medshore ambulance services.”We thought we’ve been providing service the best we can. We had three stations in Bamberg County. We had this station in Bamberg, we had one in Erhardt and one in Denmark. We had it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” Captain Hughes said.
We’ve learned the County used an emergency procurement.
According to S.C. Code 11-35-1570:
“Notwithstanding any other provision of this code, the chief procurement officer, the head of a purchasing agency, or a designee of either officer may make or authorize others to make emergency procurements only when there exists an immediate threat to public health, welfare, critical economy and efficiency, or safety under emergency conditions as defined in regulations promulgated by the board; and provided, that such emergency procurements shall be made with as much competition as is practicable under the circumstances. A written determination of the basis for the emergency and for the selection of the particular contractor shall be included in the contract file.”
Also, Hughes says that his team hasn’t been provided with a written contract since 2012 but was still providing the area with coverage. They are also disputing claims that the squad has outdated equipment.
“Our equipment is not the best in the world but it’s a tough job and with the County not paying us and we can not afford to buy new equipment,” one squad member shared. The squad also owns several $20,000 LIFEPAK 15 monitor/defibrillators.
Medshore is now operating at what County officials say is the same funding amount negotiated with Bamberg Rescue Squad. It’s a number Hughes says saw many changes. “We’ve been getting $475,000. It was supposed to have been 500,000 and they cut it back a few years ago,” Hughes recalled.
Back to the cancellation of the contract. In that contract, the County can determine if the organization breached it. Hughes says his team didn’t have the ‘reasonable opportunity to correct the deficiency” that the county said it had. Then there’s the issue of back payments owed.
“$118,750.02. We need it desperately,” Captain Hughes said.
The Bamberg Rescue Squad says that it has written off large numbers of debt. Some wonder if the new company will be able to do the same.”We are relying on insurance payments and people paying bills and they don’t, they don’t pay them. We can’t take taxes. We end up writing off between $300-$400,000/year in bad debt,” the squad member added.
Meanwhile, after one year, a competitive bidding process will take place for companies, including the local rescue squad, to apply to provide the County with EMS services.
One woman says there are many unanswered questions especially since the organization has been handling calls for a number of years.
“I feel very upset about [the change in service.] Why are they taking Bamberg County’s money from the rescue squad out of Bamberg County and giving it to Anderson County where [Bamberg County Administrator] Joey Preston came from? Bamberg County citizens, we’ve got to wake up,” Judy Sandifer said.
Preston has been in a nearly 11-year legal battle with Anderson County Council, which began with a severance deal back in 2008.
The Court of Appeals ruled in 2017 that the council didn’t have the legal authority to approve the deal, saying a majority of the council had conflicts of interest.
Recently, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled the severance agreement for the former Anderson County Administrator, which was valued at more than $1.1 million, was invalid due to the county’s lack of a quorum and was referred back to the Circuit Court to determine how much he must pay back to the county.
He may stand to owe the county at least $784,000, according to the Independent Mail. But one of his attorneys said that he has other debts that must be paid first, including a $1.2 million court order linked to the silver-based Ponzi scheme orchestrated by former Anderson County Councilman Ron Wilson, the paper added.
Meanwhile, Hughes says that the Bamberg Rescue Squad will still be serving the community.
“We have a training center, a state-certified training center. we have a basic EMT class here. The last class ended in April. Four people graduated from the training course,” Captain Hughes said.
A number of squad members are also certified to teach.
The Bamberg Rescue Squad also hopes to serve as a secondary provider of services. If Medshore isn’t available, they would like to assist.
The County issued the following statement:
Effective October 1, 2019, Medshore Ambulance will provide ambulance service for Bamberg County E-911, responding to all 911 calls in the county. Medshore Ambulance has provided ambulance service for neighboring Barnwell County since 2014. Founded in 1976, Medshore has a longstanding history of successfully providing ambulance service throughout the state of South Carolina. Medshore serves multiple counties as the E-911 ambulance provider, in addition to providing ambulance services for Bamberg’s Pruitt Health Center, Columbia’s Dorn VA Medical Center, McLeod Regional Medical Center, among others.
Bamberg County citizens will benefit from Medshore’s extensive experience and high quality service. In addition to bringing state-of-the art lifesaving equipment to the county including automatic CPR chest compression devices and power stretchers, Medshore is the only ambulance service in South Carolina to be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services (CAAS), the industry’s gold standard of operational excellence. Medshore first received its CAAS accreditation in 2001 and has maintained these national standards through a rigorous review process every three years.
The change in ambulance providers is the result of a breach of contract by the County’s prior ambulance server provider, Bamberg Rescue Squad. As part of that prior contract with Bamberg Rescue Squad, the county made payments to Bamberg Rescue Squad in exchange for their services. Among other material terms of the contract, Bamberg Rescue Squad was required to provide monthly, quarterly and annual activity reports and financial reports to the County, which were to detail, among other things, patient transport services, equipment failures, dispatch documentation, and detailed, audited financial reports. This reporting was necessary from a checks-and-balances standpoint because the County was using tax-payer money to fund the contract. Unfortunately, Bamberg Rescue Squad failed to, among other things, provide the required activity and financial reports as specified in the contract. After a number of prior requests, the County delivered an official request in June 2019 for this documentation, which went unanswered. As a result, the county terminated the contract for cause effective October 1, 2019.
“This is especially difficult for me because I have known and respected all the employees with the Bamberg Rescue Squad since I was a child. Their staff has always done a great job for Bamberg County,” stated Trent Kinard, Bamberg County Chairman. “However, while Council regrets to sever ties with any partner, it is imperative that our partners meet their contractual obligations. Medshore has a proven track record of success and accountability. County Council looks forward to working with them to serve the citizens of Bamberg County.”
The county understands that Medshore Ambulance holds a strong belief that a community is served best by local EMTs and paramedics. All qualified citizens of Bamberg who apply will be considered for employment with Medshore’s Bamberg County station; and all prior years of service in the industry will be considered for purposes of salary, seniority, and associated benefits. Medshore’s current salary schedule should be attractive to all such qualified individuals. EMTs and paramedics currently working in the system or interested in working in the system should apply at www.medshore.co
Medshore has agreed to work in Bamberg County for the same funding amount negotiated with Bamberg Rescue Squad. Medshore guarantees monthly reports will be provided to Bamberg County Council.
“Medshore has been an excellent ambulance provider in Barnwell County since our hospital closed,” stated Barnwell County Councilman Jerry Creech. “They provide monthly reports to our council and have been excellent to work with. Barnwell County looks forward to working with Bamberg County; the two counties working together will be better for both of us.” Bamberg and Barnwell counties have agreed to a mutual aid contract so the two counties will share resources during peak demand.
In addition to providing ambulance service, Medshore is a committed community partner in the counties they serve. Medshore has supported local technical colleges by providing grant funds for their employees’ education. There is a shortage of qualified EMTs and paramedics statewide and nationally; Medshore makes it a priority to invest in their employees to mitigate this shortage. Medshore and Denmark Technical College are working together to develop an EMT training program in Bamberg County. Additionally, Medshore offers continuing education opportunities to dispatchers, and multiple trainings to the community, including CPR/AED, and Stop the Bleed classes, a national awareness campaign that encourage bystanders to become trained to help in an emergency.
Medshore owns eighty ambulances that are equipped with the latest-model advanced life support medical equipment; these vehicles will be an upgrade from the vehicles and equipment currently used in Bamberg County. “Medshore looks forward to providing excellent ambulance service to Bamberg County residents,” said Greg Shore, CEO of Medshore. “We understand the importance of the work we do in the communities we serve. In order to ensure high quality patient care, Medshore is committed to ensuring that all personnel maintain the highest standards, all equipment and vehicles are in excellent working condition, and our partners are provided robust reports about the services they receive.”
Count on NewsChannel 6 to keep you updated.