PEMBROKE, N.C. — When you call 911, you expect there will be a working ambulance to respond. In Robeson County, however, the ambulances keep breaking down.
Robeson County EMS has a fleet of 12 ambulances. Six work on one 12-hour shift, and the other half work on the other 12-hour shift. They cover 946 square miles – the largest county in the state.
Matthew Locklear, deputy commander of the Pembroke Rescue Squad, said a call came in last week and the county was down to just one ambulance. It needed to borrow one of Pembroke’s two trucks.
Locklear said the county’s shortage puts a strain on his ambulances.
“There’s no coverage. There’s not enough ambulances on the road,” he said.
Noah Woods, chairman of the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, said each truck costs at least $100,000. The county has purchased six that will be in operation within the next two months. Two current ambulances will be replaced.
“We just had a number of them break down at the same time,” said Dr. Bruce Whitman, director of the emergency department at Southeastern Regional Medical Center. “Patients have not been at risk, but there have been times when there have been long delays.”
By September, the county expects to have 15 ambulances available.
WRAL did a story on the ambulance problems in April 2006. County officials said then that Ford had sold them lemons, and the engines didn’t work.