Emergency stations approved

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AIKEN - Slow but steady may be winning the race to improve the county's emergency medical services.

The Aiken County Council's judicial and public safety committee recently approved a recommendation from the emergency medical services department for two new ambulance stations in the Aiken area.

"I'm very optimistic that we will co-locate with the city of Aiken," said Phil Clarke, the emergency medical services coordinator.

The city recently announced that it will build a new public safety station on the south side at the College Acres Public Works site on Citadel Drive, near the Whiskey Road intersection.

A second emergency medical station could be built on the north side near state Highway 39 and Wire Road, near Interstate 20.

"I only see the county growing, and it doesn't matter what area that you pick," Mr. Clarke said. "As the western end fills up, they're going to be moving south and east and north."

The two new facilities would bring the number of county emergency medical stations to 10.

The committee also approved the purchase of another ambulance with local option sales tax funds, and it recommended that the county reimburse new staff members for initial basic training costs of about $1,000.

The EMS department, which has faced chronic personnel shortages, has increased its work force in recent months from 42 to 52 responders.

"The only problem is most of the folks that we're hiring are green. They have no experience," Mr. Clarke said.

In addition, he said, the department still has 10 openings for emergency responders, including six new positions the county council created in July.

"We're wanting to make sure that the citizens have adequate and competent pre-hospital care," Mr. Clarke said. "You have to make sure that the people that we bring on are going to be, number one, accountable, and they're going to be compassionate."

Councilman Eddie Butler stressed that hiring personnel takes precedence over bricks and mortar.

"An empty building does not do much for response time, and it does not do much for you if you're in cardiac arrest," he said.

However, he also said the county emergency medical services had made progress.

"It's just been a longer process than any of us anticipated," Mr. Butler said.

Reach Betsy Gilliland at (803) 648-1395, ext. 113, or betsy.gilliland@augustachronicle.com.


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