Marlboro County looks to start its own EMS department to fix long response times

Pee Dee

BENNETTSVILLE, SC (WBTW) – Increasingly long waits for emergency medical services are motivating Marlboro County to take action.

The county lost its only hospital a few years ago and EMS crews are being stretched thin. Marlboro Park Hospital closed back in 2015, hurting emergency crews and patients throughout Marlboro County.

The county has studied ways to improve EMS and it’s now looking to make changes.

“Small communities across the country are losing hospitals at a rapid pace and we understand we’re not special or different,” said county administrator Ron Munnerlyn.

Last year, Marlboro County created an EMS task force to figure out what to do about emergency care issues throughout the rural county.

“Average response times are creeping up, but we also noticed that just the sheer time to transport someone to a hospital outside the county added minutes to a response time of any call,” Munnerlyn said.

After Marlboro Park Hospital closed, Marlboro County Rescue has to take patients to hospitals in Cheraw, Scotland County, North Carolina, or Dillon.

One idea is for Marlboro County to establish an EMS department run and funded by the county, replacing Marlboro County Rescue, which the county contracts.

“The task force’s report and the recommendations were that would be the best way to serve the citizens, considering the situation we have with no hospital,” said Munnerlyn.

Back in July, county council approved a property tax increase to generate $1.1 million for a new department. A trust from the old hospital also gave a $300,000 grant to Marlboro County for the program.

The next step is to hire a professional director and EMS staff.

“We’ll begin recruiting for positions here in the next 30 to 60 days to actually start the program,” Munnerlyn said.

Marlboro County will also push to change state laws.

Munnerlyn says the changes could let a North Carolina hospital bring emergency services to Marlboro County.

“Right now, state regulations and laws do not permit that and it’s real disadvantage for those of us on the border,” he said.

The task force also recommends creating an advisory board to discuss EMS issues with the county. After Tuesday’s county council meeting, the advisory board is one more reading away from being approved.

The county’s contract with Marlboro County Rescue ends on June 30.

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