Rockingham County commissioners decided Monday night to spend $28,450 for a study of the county's emergency medical services system, including volunteer rescue squads.
The consulting firm Solutions for Local Government will spend from 10 to 12 weeks reviewing the county's EMS system and volunteer squads. Consultants will look at a range of issues, including whether a 1-cent tax should be allocated to the county's three volunteer rescue squads for additional support.
The county currently allocates about $32,000 per year to each of the three rescue squads. Last month, officials with those rescue squads told commissioners they are operating on tight budgets and need additional funding.
The Charlotte-based consulting firm also will consider whether the county should replace the current 24-hour shifts with 12-hour shifts for workers at the Eden and Western Rockingham County EMS stations.
Officials with the county's emergency services department say studies have shown those daylong shifts can be dangerous.
Steve Hale, the county's emergency services director, said the county has been looking at these issues for more than five years. The Reidsville EMS station began 12-hour shifts in 2006. At the time, it was receiving the highest emergency call volume.
Commissioner Amelia Dallas said that with so many issues surrounding such a vital public service, the time had come to review those issues and make some changes.
"We just need to assess the whole situation and see where we can go," Dallas said.
She said she isn't in favor of adding a tax for rescue squads and hopes the review will find other revenue to fund the volunteer squads' needs.
One strain on the local EMS is the number of calls for non-emergency transportation of patients. Local hospitals and other groups such as assisted living communities can call on EMS to move patients from one facility to the other. The county is paid for moving those patients.
The county has six full-time ambulances, but it wants to know if there should be more.
The study will look at whether the county should continue to provide those nonemergency transports or whether commissioners should consider granting permits to private vendors to handle those calls.
The board heard a request Monday night for a franchise agreement for a similar service. The service, CareLink, is an ambulance service of Moses Cone Health System.