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Talk about a twist of fate. In one edition of The Lancaster News, we printed a story about Lancaster County Emergency Medical Services winning a prestigious state award at its annual meeting in Myrtle Beach.
In that article, Lanny Bernard, EMS director, touted the accomplishments of his 52 full-time and 25 part-time employees who work hard to provide life-saving care to Lancaster County residents.
Just days later in another article, Bernard was defending EMS response time to calls in the northern end of Lancaster County.
Complaints about slow response time came from two residents who live in the Panhandle. Indian Land resident Patrick Harris complained that it took 20 minutes for an EMS unit to get to his home to care for his pregnant wife, who was bleeding excessively.
The other complaint was from an Edenmoor resident who fell and broke her collarbone and waited on her porch for EMS, which never arrived, so the injured woman was driven to the hospital by her family.
In the first incident, all available units were on other calls, Bernard said. In the second incident, Bernard said the responders were having trouble finding the location of the house.
The average response rate for the county is 9 minutes, Bernard said.
“The average is an average,” Bernard said. “Sometimes we get to people a lot quicker and sometimes it takes a lot longer than that.”
With EMS answering more than 12,000 calls a year, it is understandable that some calls would take longer if all units were busy at the same time. But if you or your loved one is awaiting assistance, those minutes pass so slowly. Any other circumstances – like multiple calls, uncooperative traffic and undocumented addresses – compound that wait time.
Several of us have received care from EMS and are extremely grateful for their skill, compassion and professionalism. We know of others who feel the same way. Winning the state’s top award is another testament to the EMS quality of care.
But in the story about the slow response time, Bernard made a statement that did little to endear folks to him and Lancaster EMS. Harris was concerned that Lancaster should have called neighboring Fort Mill County when Lancaster County was tied up with other calls.
Bernard said Lancaster does call for assistance when necessary, but that he avoids calling Fort Mill Rescue Squad.
“It’s no secret that I don’t like the Fort Mill Rescue Squad,” he said. “I’d prefer they not come into Lancaster County,.”
The dispute is over fund-raising efforts that have since been corrected. Bernard’s statement has stirred much controversy. Online comments on the story reflect the sentiments of many readers.
Bernard’s comment was not in good taste and lacked professionalism. We also feel sure he didn’t mean it the way it sounded. We’ve all said things that we wish we had not, but we can’t retract the spoken word.
Still, we would hope that Bernard would put aside his personal feelings to call the nearest unit available during an emergency, even if that unit is Fort Mill Rescue Squad.
EMS folks work long hours, during all kinds of weather and on holidays and weekends. Like so many other organizations and agencies, it has limited resources and has to work with what it has.
It’s no secret that the northern end of the county is bursting at the seams and the county is scrambling to provide utilities, sufficient roads, law enforcement and EMS services. The Panhandle has so many new developments and neighborhoods they don’t all show up on GPS and other tracking devises.
There are so many scenarios that impact response time. But that means little to the person who needs life-saving care.
If you have ever seen them in action, you know that Lancaster County’s EMTs and paramedics are committed to saving lives. They deserve praise for that commitment. This incident has detracted from their recognition for the state award.
One commenter summed it up when he or she said, “EMS does a good job. Nobody is perfect and mistakes are bound to be made in any profession.”
We agree. We can also learn from our mistakes.