DOBSON — Surry County EMS will be charging for a life-saving procedure, following a meeting which was capped with an abnormal closed session.
Monday evening the Surry County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to allow the EMS department to add a charge of $250 for blood transfusions to its schedule of fees.
EMS Director John Shelton told commissioners his department is one of only two in the nation which is approved to administer a blood transfusion in the field. The other department is in Texas.
“We have done it three times already,” said Shelton.
“If we are going to increase rates of survival with what we deal with, this is something we need to do,” explained Shelton. “Unfortunately, we run a lot of trauma in this county.”
The trauma runs aren’t short transports. Shelton explained the two nearest trauma centers are located in Winston-Salem, at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and Forsyth Medical Center.
“For a patient in Lowgap that could mean an hour on the road,” said Shelton, who went on to explain oftentimes in excess of an hour is needed to extricate an accident victim from a vehicle.
There are no plans to store blood in ambulances, said Shelton. Blood is stored at Northern Hospital of Surry County, which has supported the new program. When blood is needed at the scene of an incident, law enforcement personnel pick up the blood and take it to the scene. The order of operation has worked well the three times it has been used.
Upon answering a question from Commissioner Larry Johnson, Shelton indicated all blood used will be O-negative, the universal donor.
Commissioner Van Tucker asked Shelton why his department is one of only two in the United States which can give blood transfusions in the field.
“I can say North Carolina and Texas are the most progressive in how we deal with trauma,” answered Shelton.
He also noted the support system for his department was excellent, as the trauma centers and both hospitals in Surry County are highly supportive of the work his paramedics perform on a daily basis.
Shelton also said his department is staffed with critical care paramedics, something which sets it apart from many other departments. Critical care paramedics receive hundreds of hours of classroom and clinical training above what most paramedics receive, leaving them better equipped to handle any medical emergency.
In a subsequent interview, Shelton said he believes other departments will begin offering the life-saving procedure.
Shelton also told commissioners the blood is donated. Thus, the $250 charge, which is far less than the charge for a blood transfusion in a hospital setting, will go toward providing the service, training for the procedure and the supplies needed for the procedure.
Following the board’s regular session, commissioners moved into an unscheduled closed session for discussion regarding personnel.
While the closed session in and of itself is not out of the ordinary, normally the county manager, clerk to the board and the county attorney join the board in closed session. For most matters regarding personnel, the assistant county manager for human resources also remains in closed session.
However, all four were dismissed, leaving only the four board members present in the closed session. Commissioner Larry Phillips was absent due to a family medical emergency.
Assistant County Manager Sandy Snow paused after taking her leave to ask a deputy sheriff if he could remain at the government center until the meeting had concluded.
At one point Tucker emerged from the closed door meeting, which lasted about 40 minutes. However, it was only momentarily, and Tucker noted he was ensuring a deputy sheriff was still present.
The board adjourned after taking no action following the closed session. Additionally, board members stated no action occurred in closed session.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.