Local News

Wake County may have to rescue Garner EMS

Posted March 17, 2010 6:26 p.m. EDT
Updated March 17, 2010 6:45 p.m. EDT

— Wake County EMS is poised to take over Garner EMS, which could run out of money within a month, officials said Wednesday.

"We are going to assure there's uninterrupted service to the citizens of Garner," said Dr. Brent Myers, director of Wake County EMS.

Myers said that revenue projections for Garner EMS were on target through Jan. 1. Eastern Wake EMS has been the only paramedic group in the county in recent years to have approved expenses exceed revenue, he said.

"We have no indication of criminal activity at all (in Garner), and we're just now trying to gather exactly what the situation is," Myers said. "What we're trying to do now is look at the (cash) outflow side. That's the part we just don't know yet."

Garner EMS Chief Bill Frederick blamed the financial straits on "billing issues" and the poor economy.

The agency, which is operated as a nonprofit and overseen by an independent board of directors, is trying to cut expenses, Frederick said, but he's unsure if enough money can be saved to keep it in business.

Garner EMS has 15 employees – a 16th was laid off in November – and operates four ambulances out of two stations. During the first two months of 2010, the agency responded to more than 1,000 calls.

Frederick said officials are looking at cutting employee pay and benefits and reorganizing Garner EMS.

"It's very critical, very crucial they continue to operate," said Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams, adding that he learned of the EMS financial problems only last weekend.

If Garner EMS shuts down, Myers said the county would step in and keep the employees and ambulances rolling.

"We're working on resolving the problem. The citizens can still dial 911 and be assured the ambulance will come at their calling," Williams said.

The EMS problems come weeks after Garner officials learned from an outside auditor that money was missing from the Garner Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department.

The State Bureau of Investigation is looking into the disappearance of nearly $400,000 from the department. No charges have been filed in the case, but Amy Moore, the administrative assistant who handled the fire department's books, abruptly resigned last month.