DOBSON — Surry County EMS replaces ambulances every year, but in the upcoming fiscal year the department will have to make a major change.
“We can’t get a diesel chassis that will go under our box,” EMS Director John Shelton told the Surry County Board of Commissioners last week at a budget workshop.
In every budget year, Shelton requests new ambulances.
However, that does not mean his department gets entirely new units. Instead, the box (the portion in which a patient rides) is removed from the chassis on which it sits and placed on a new chassis. The box is refurbished, and the unit is painted to match the other Surry County ambulances.
The hiccup in the 2017-18 fiscal year is no manufacturer makes a chassis which can be paired with the “Type III” boxes used by the EMS department.
County board Chairman Eddie Harris was in a state of disbelief, saying, “That’s just unacceptable.”
“It’s a problem all over the country,” said Shelton.
Shelton said he has “looked all over the country,” but he has struck out in finding a diesel chassis which could be used. Rather than replace the entire units, including the box, he recommended the county temporarily make the switch to gas ambulances.
“So are ambulances are becoming obsolete?” asked Harris.
A diesel chassis which would fit under a “Type I” box is available, said Shelton in a subsequent interview. However, the cost to buy entirely new units consisting of chassis and box would be nearly $200,000 per unit.
While the department will come up with a plan to eventually make the transition to the Type I box paired with a diesel chassis, in the short-term, Shelton recommending using a gas chassis to save money.
Each ambulance refurbishing will cost $93,483, according to Shelton. His budget proposes purchasing three gas chassis.
Shelton also included three automatic chest compression units. The units cost nearly $11,000 each, but Shelton said a trial use proved the units save lives.
Shelton told the county board the units had been placed on his department’s quick-response vehicles for a free trial period offered by the manufacturer. Those units, which are stationed in outlying areas, have only one critical care paramedic manning them. The chest compression units strap around a person’s chest, allowing that machine to perform C.P.R. while the paramedic performs other life-saving treatments.
Shelton said if the dollars are budgeted, a chest compression unit will be placed on each of the quick-response vehicles and the shift supervisor’s truck.
Shelton’s request also includes $100,000 for general supplies needed for the county’s EMS, HAZMAT and rescue operations and about $12,000 to replace three computers.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.