AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) — Aiken County leaders are looking for ways to fix the ongoing issues with its Emergency Medical Services Department.

“If I catch a fire call or a car wreck with somebody entrapped in it, I can’t respond to that call. I’m stuck because by law, I can’t leave that patient,” New Holland Volunteer Fire Department Chief Dennis Jackson told NewsChannel 6’s Aiken Bureau Chief Shawn Cabbagestalk. “I have to turn that patient over to someone of equal or higher knowledge.”

In 2022, county and private ambulance services received more than 23,000 calls in Aiken County. Hundreds of them went unanswered.

“I went to the council back in 2020 after Chief Glenn Poole had to wait two hours to get to the hospital when he had an incident,” he recalled.

Chief Jackson says the issue got better, but now it’s back.

“I had three guys go to a call, and a woman had fell and it was cold, and it started raining. They held a top over her head to keep her from getting wet while they waited on the ambulance. Over 45 minutes, all three of those firefighters were exposed,” he said.

Higher pay, more options for EMS workers to further their education, and changing the shift schedules could fix the issue.

“Somebody had mentioned to the employees that they were gonna get a change their schedule to a 24-72 schedule, and that rocked on for a couple months. Held some people on, then finally somebody told ’em that’s not gonna happen. And I think they had a mass exodus,” he shared.

County leaders recommend hiring an outside consulting firm to figure out the problems.

“Should have been done back in 2020. Go talk to the people that’s actually working for them. Go talk to these EMS workers and dispatchers and ask them, ‘Hey, so what’s going good? What’s going bad? You know, what can we do to improve?'” Chief Jackson added.

It’s unclear when the group could be hired.