Lower Florence County to get 20 new EMTs, 2 ambulances

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – For those who live in lower Florence County – Johnsonville, Pamplico or Lake City – it could up to two hours for an ambulance to transport you to a hospital and return to the area, according to Florence County EMS Director Ryon Watkins.

“It can take one and a half to two and half hours to complete a call there,” confirms Watkins. “In the downtown Florence area, for example, we could run a call completely in 30- 45 minutes.”

Florence County Council hopes to save more lives by adding EMS workers through the 2017-2018 proposed budget.

The budget includes a 1.0 mill increase for the general fund and an increase in the EMS vehicle fee to $15 from $10.

County council hopes to hire 20 full-time employees to operate two more ambulances. During Thursday’s county council meeting, members moved to amend the second reading of the budget to increase the general fund to $58 million.

Florence County Council Chairman Kent Caudle says council hopes to improve emergency management service in lower Florence County.

“We are adding two ambulances and twenty employees to the EMS in anticipation for a lot of things changing,” explains Caudle.

The additional staff will operate the two ambulances 24/7.

Florence County EMS Director Ryon Watkins says response times to rural areas in lower Florence County vary based on location and ambulance availability.

“The people who live and travel through there are a long way from a hospital,” describes Watkins. “It takes a long time from the time we are dispatched to the call until we are back in the area and ready for service again.”

The goal is to get to 90% of all calls in nine minutes or less, which is harder in a rural area, but Watkins says the additions should help meet that goal.

“The benefit of having these two ambulances on the road is making sure we have someone covering the area in the event that one or more ambulances are busy and out of the area,” says Watkins. “We’ll have the resources to make sure someone’s available all the time.”

Caudle says this is another example of growth in the county.

“It’s a good growing pain because a lot of good things are happening,” Caudle emphasizes.

The plan will take one to two years to recruit and train EMTs in the area, Watkins predicts. He says county administration is also working on where to place the two additional ambulances.