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Bertie County leaders want to privatize EMS services

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WINDSOR, N.C. -

More 911 calls, budget cuts and a drop in the number of volunteers has created the perfect storm in Bertie County.

"With our economic status and as economically poor as Bertie County is, the choice was made by the commissioners to seek a contracted service by putting out a request for proposal, which was released early May," says Mitch Cooper, director of Bertie County Emergency Management.

County leaders want to privatize their EMS services through a provider called First Med.

Cooper says the change-up would increase the county's current five full-time positions to 24 full-time positions with benefits, while adding 12 part-time jobs.

The privatization would also increase the number of EMS trucks from three to five, decreasing response time for patients. Finally, it would guarantee there is always a certified paramedic on every call.

"With our longer transport times being that we're such a rural area, over time you'll see an increase in quality of life as far as the outcome of patients when they leave the hospital because they will receive the highest level of care pre-hospital," Cooper says.

So, what happens to all the people already employed through the county-run EMS?

9 On Your Side talked with several EMTs off-camera who said they're worried about losing their jobs should a private company move in.

Cooper says he's aware of their concerns and while there are no guarantees, he's hopeful First Med will offer them jobs.

"This company has stated that they'd like to keep the same faces and the same equipment on the road so the citizens of this county know that the people are still here."

Last year EMS services cost Bertie County taxpayers $185,000. If commissioners choose to hire First Med, it would increase costs to $310,000 a year for the next five years with the expectation costs would drop after that.

Commissioners will vote on whether to make the privatization official next week.

 

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