A recent audit, conducted by Fitch & Associates, of the Anderson County Emergency Medical Services (ACEMS) revealed that the department is underfunded to the point of inadequacy.
This underfunding has lead to an ambulance fleet that does not meet basic operational safeguards and design specifications.
Along with essential medical equipment being out of date and not able to provide proper clinical data.
In the conclusion of the overall findings section of the audit, Fitch & Associates stated that their overarching recommendation is that the Mayor and the ACEMS Director develop an immediate and long-range strategic plan that can be brought to the County Commission for review, approval and funding.
Myron Iwanski, Anderson County Trustee and Chairman of the ACEMS Board, reiterated his feeling of agreeance with the recommendation in front of the Anderson County Board of Commissioners Monday, April 16.
“The bottom line is that the Mayor needs to take the lead on this.” said Iwanski.
“We can’t take on something as complicated as this and have 16 commissioners trying to sort through all that. That’s just not going to happen. So someone has to take the lead.”
Iwanski noted that even though it would likely be unproductive to have all the County Commissioners involved, a few Commissioners from different areas working with Mayor Terry Frank and Nathan Sweet, who is the ACEMS Driector, would likely prove productive.
Frank stated that she and Sweet were already discussing the formation of a working group together and that she felt it was important to have the public involved as well.
“I think we need to get a couple of folks from the community involved. When you put people around the table, I think a working group will help with a long-term plan. Then it will be incumbent upon Nathan and I to come up with something immediate and short-term.” said Frank.
A telling statistic revealed on WYSH radio show Ask Your neighbor last week pointed out that, on average, most counties commit 32 percent of county budget to EMS. Anderson County commits only 3 percent.
County Commission members agreed that the lack of resources ACEMS is facing has become a top priority.
This means that, to compensate for such low funding, there will likely be small raises in taxes or cut backs in other sectors.
Iwanski cited the dealing with the Block House Valley Landfill as a similar situation.
“We were dragging our feet and the state was going to come down on us and say you’ve got to fix this. We didn’t even have a plan.” Iwanksi said.
“David Clark, County Attorney at the time, helped lead that and it took a tax increase.”
He also stated a similar project with the jail.
Creation of the correct plan for the revitalization of the ACEMS alone could take quite some time. Not to mention the execution of the plan, which will inevitably take longer.
The County Commission is taking some immediate steps, though. With a temporary movement of the tax rate proposed to generate $1.6 million, roughly $800,000 will go to EMS.
That allotment could take care of a few of the most critical issues but there is still an enormous amount of work to be done to get the ACEMS where its citizens need it to be.