By Jennifer Tuohy, Island Eye News Editor
Discussions on both islands about concerns over public safety, especially during the peak summer months when Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms swell their numbers, have often come back to one issue: How to get more emergency medical coverage for the islands.
While both fire departments are equipped with first responders and IOP has emergency medical technicians, neither is a paramedic level service nor a transportation service. Over-long wait times for a paramedic level ambulance has been a recurring frustration for both islands, and a symptom of an overstretched Charleston County EMS service, which supplies the ambulances for the entire county.
The service’s capacity has not grown in pace with the county’s exploding population. In the last 5 years call volume has doubled, and the service has not had the resources to meet that demand, Deputy County Administrator Christine DuRant said.
While both Sullivan’s and Isle of Palms have requested extra coverage on the islands, especially during the summer, an ambulance has not been available to be stationed here, and the quick response vehicle (QRV), staffed with a paramedic, was only here on weekends. However, all that just changed.
DuRant attended the IOP Public Safety Committee meeting Jan. 6 2016 to bring the good news that the service is embarking on the largest public safety expansion in the history of the county, funded by a millage increase. In addition to hiring 51 new employees, the county is expanding its QRV system, and will be placing a QRV on the islands during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week beginning Feb. 8, 2016. This QRV will be staffed with a paramedic capable of full, advanced life-saving response and intervention. Beginning in July/August, the QRV will convert to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Additionally in July, the county will add more ambulances to its fleet, so the call volume per “truck” will decrease, meaning wait times should also go down. “A QRV is a huge thing for the island,” Mayor Cronin said.
A QRV has all the same capabilities as an ambulance, minus the capability to transport a patient to a hospital. It will be staffed by a paramedic who can deliver potentially life-saving drugs while the ambulance is enroute.
The vehicle will not have a permanent home on IOP and will likely move between IOP and Sullivan’s, possibly stationing at the IOP Public Safety facility or around Breach Inlet.