Building EMS Infrastructure During Tough Times:Bertie County Looking to Make Critical In-Roads

Bertie County is much more than a political body of policies, referendums and county as fiduciary on behalf of over 20, 000 residents. It is home to a community of citizens raising their families, attending their churches, and making their way to workplaces.  As important as is its roads and bridges, is the health of its community. Focusing on well being and quality of life indicators within a rural context, takes a look at the role of EMS and how it is a critical community support. It moves the community one step closer to livability factors essential to economic development.

So why is there a need for the county to issue an RFP (Request for Proposals) for Emergency Medical Services (EMS)?  EMS in today’s emergency medical market grows in complexity. Ongoing escalation in equipment cost and requirements, care levels, billing, managing outstanding noncollectables, devising fundraising strategies for support and donations, add to an endless cycle of growing responsibilities. The hours spent trying to figure all of this out weighs heavy on service providers. Such a responsibility has to be addressed, and decisions made to act in the best interest of all.

Vital emergency services have grown beyond passion and into passion and capacity. There are forces outside of the county’s control such as a changing demographic-the county is growing older, and fewer economic supports- the sequester, that adds substantial  uncertainty to planning and predicting the economic impact of EMS. If leadership is about foreseeing growing needs and garnering the courage to forge its resolution, then county leadership is making appropriate inroads.

What cannot be forgotten as an RFP is being crafted, is the role the county’s Volunteer EMS providers have meant to the community. With certainty, there have been countless lives saved because of their selfless acts. The county owes a debt of gratitude that is priceless, to the many men and women who have served throughout the decades. Not only is a debt of gratitude owed to them, but their families as partners in the process as well. The hope is the power of the volunteer, and the volunteer experience is not lost in the transition but becomes a component of more formal emergency services.

Emergency Medical Services as the heart and hand of meeting community health emergencies is not being overstated. The rural nature of Bertie County with its aging population makes the need to be EMS ready, all the more necessary.  Community culture dictates the type of additive EMS needed. The role volunteerism plays in creating sustainable models, must not be lost. Embedded in such a construct for rural low-income communities must be a model that stresses what’s being called provider familiarity.

Bertie County, not excluded, appreciates a culture of provider familiarity. Relationships are vital to providing emergency services. Whether the volunteer is “fully” skilled or is simply a member of the EMS team as liaison; bridging to build relationships between EMS and the community. Trust is a high need in low wealth communities. It is the result of links between the generations- Who are your people? What is your momma’s name? Who are your folks? Older residents are leery of strangers in general and in an emergency, situations are far more likely to require their emergency caregiver to have a familiar face; such reluctance to trust EMS personnel, meets the need for a case for volunteers. Such a volunteer model stands on the merit of its relevance as a component of a nonpublic EMS provider as well. Transporting county citizens who need emergency medical care is tandem to a county that cares about its community.

The county faces an arduous task building community infrastructure at this time.  However, the choice to act or not to act is not an option. They must take their scarce resources; leverage them across a number of needs while cutting cost to meet other needs.

County impact stands in support of Bertie County exercising its option to bid county EMS services. County EMS benefit is not just for the community alone, but serves as a dependable partner in mutual aid and emergent responder for our guest who travel through and stop in to visit, the community and its families.  Gone are the days when grandma handled emergencies with one of her concoctions made into a drink or a salve handed down through the generations. Back then she had to. The nearest medical provider was not within reach and if accessible, cost prohibited.  Times require immediate emergency intervention to protect life and County Impact is hopeful the county and the times will save lives into perpetuity.