Asking questions about state line Piedmont EMS ambulance concerns

ROCK HILL, S.C. (CN2 NEWS) – Should you have the choice? CN2 News is talking about ambulance transport concerns when it comes specifically to crossing the state line from York County into North Carolina.

U.S. Congressman Ralph Norman first alerting CN2 News to concerns. His office says residents continue to reach out, upset, they say when they called 911 to go to the hospital, some are being told by the Piedmont EMS crews they can’t cross the state line, they can only be taken to Piedmont Medical Center in Rock Hill or Fort Mill due to a new policy.

CN2 News spoke with Rock Hill’s Wendy and Ron Zivicky who have been married for 47 years.  They’ve had their fair share of health concerns.

“He’s getting there. Slow, but he’s getting there”, says Wendy.

This comes after Ron had a knee replacement in 2018. Everything seemed ok, until February of this year.

“He was sick. He was weak. We knew he needed to go to the hospital”, says Wendy.

Wendy says she wanted to take Ron to Atrium Health in Pineville and was told over the phone that wouldn’t be an issue.  She says when Piedmont EMS came by to pick her husband up, the story changed.

“They came and put him on the stretcher, ready to go and they said we will see you at Piedmont and that’s when we said, we don’t wont to go to Piedmont, we called a head of time and we wanted him taken to Atrium. That’s why we  went ahead and called. And they said they couldn’t cross state lines”, says Wendy.

The Zivicky’s aren’t the only ones who say they’ve been told by Piedmont EMS they can not be transported across state lines, due to a new policy, according to US Congressman Ralph Norman’s Office.

“Our office has filled a lot of calls on EMS situation that people have with where they are being transported”, says Congressman Norman.

CN2 News did reach out to Tenet Healthcare, Piedmont’s parent company, about the concerns, asking if a new policy has been put in place as far as transporting patients. Tenet Health released the following statement, “Piedmont Medical Center is proud to provide high quality healthcare, locally for our community. Our EMS service follows customary professional standards for considering applicable medical protocols, patient safety, and patient choice when determining ambulance transport.” 

Tenet Health would not speak to a specific new policy but CN2 was sent a copy of a policy from a reliable source who wants to remain anonymous.

At the center of what they call “Standard Policies for Destination Determination”, it breaks down what an EMS crew should do when it comes to transporting a patient. It says it was last updated May 22nd of this year.

In the policy given to CN2 News, if a patient wants to cross the state line, a supervisor needs to be called and certain criteria should be determined including having a pre-existing physician relationship and if quote ” the system status” is able to support the out of county request.

York County is also involved. CN2 learned it has a contract with Tenet Healthcare that
states, quote “Patients shall retain the option to select the hospital within the geographic limits of York County and all counties contiguous to York County, to which they will be transported, subject to medical protocols. The contract goes on to say, nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the transport of a patient by an ambulance to any facility, located anywhere, if the standard of care requires such transport.

York County officials released a statement to CN2 News saying, “York County is aware of complaints concerning this issue. We’re working with Piedmont Medical Center to resolve these concerns. The contract between the County and PMC allows patients the choice of which hospital they are transported to, within certain parameters. We expect PMC to abide by the terms of the contract.”

Others in the EMS field aware of the concerns shared with us, it’s also important to keep in mind that just because a hospital is physically closer, doesn’t mean wait times are shorter. So, a crew could potentially be tied up longer if the hospital is backed up. They feel there are multiple things that should be assessed when making destination decisions.

As for Ron, his knee is healing after an E Coli infection. He says although the care he received at Piedmont Medical Center was okay, they believe they should have had the option of where they wanted to go.

“Just that it’s sad that you don’t have a choice for your health. I feel you should have a choice of where you want to go and who you want to take care of you”, says Wendy.

CN2 News reached out to South Carolina DHEC about the concerns. Officials say DHEC does conduct investigations of EMS agencies and technicians if complaints are filed and they find an investigation is warranted.

They say they did receive a complaint regarding Piedmont EMS transport. DHEC says it determined the department could not investigate further because the Department only has the legal authority to investigate potential violations of Regulation 61-7, Emergency Medical Services.

DEHC officials added, “When transporting patients, EMS personnel take into account several considerations. Included in those considerations are patient choice and the nature of the emergency. There may be instances where transport to a specialized facility is warranted. Also, EMS agencies may not always have sufficient staffing or available ambulances in their service area and make operational adjustments, when appropriate, such as routing ambulances to facilities that will enable the fastest turnaround time. Hospitals may also request patients be diverted to other facilities, often due to their capacity being overwhelmed.”  

Complaints can be filed on DHEC’s website at: South Carolina Division of EMS and Trauma | SCDHEC.   

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