Person County Emergency Medical Services History
By: Captain Gerald Wilson (Retired December 31,2000)
As of July 1, 1977, the State and Federal Government implemented stringent requirements for ambulance vehicles, the required equipment to be carried on these vehicles, and training requirements for the people operating these vehicles.
Prior to this date, ambulance service in Person County had been provided by private services franchised and financially assisted by the County. The last being Mercy Ambulance Service operated by Strickland's Funeral Home. Mercy had done a very good job over the years and enjoyed a large amount of appreciation, respect, and support from the people of Person County.
Since the new mandated requirements would require a large expense plus an almost completely new work force, the County decided it could better handle this than a private unit. Therefore the Person County Ambulance Service was created. Officially, on July 1, 1977, Person County Ambulance Service, armed with two (2) new Dodge ambulances, Mercy's old Cadillac ambulance, nine (9) Emergency Medial Technicians and three (3) Ambulance Attendants, all raring to go (we lovingly referred to them as the "Dirty Dozen") assumed operation of the County's ambulance service. Actually, the aforementioned employees had been operating the service on a volunteer basis for about two (2) weeks so the Mercy guys could have a vacation.
Acceptance by the population of Person County was difficult and slow. EMT's asking questions and treating patients on the scene and enroute (playing doctor), plus as I mentioned earlier, the immense popularity of the folks at Mercy Ambulance, who the "County" took the service away from, made acceptance and approval very difficult. Added to these problems were equipment problems, like blowing up the engines in two (2) Dodge trucks didn't help either.
But, our guys stuck to their guns, continually doing their jobs to the best of their ability, and over time people saw that trained, professional care, especially on critical, life-threatening calls made a difference and attitudes began to change. Good people doing a good job was winning out. That first full year of service we ran 1266 calls.
Right from the start we wanted to go to Advanced Life Support. Durham was Paramedic and we couldn't stand it. But ALS was a new thing in North Carolina, and even the State was not sure in which direction it wanted to go. This made getting approval for training programs and certifications difficult. But, in June of 1978 we became certified as EMT-IVs. We wore a little rocker patch under our EMT patch which said "IV Certified." All we could do was start IV fluids, but that was a start.
Our quest for ALS training and certification continued. In June of 1978 we were trained to use the EOA which was soon to be approved for use by the state. In February of 1979 we took EVOC Training. In those days it really was a fun course. After that we started participating in the pilot program for EMT Defibrillation through Duke Cardiology Department. This programs lasted approximately three (3) years.
In October of 1985 we took Basic Trauma Life Support (BTLS) under Dr. Sayer himself, through Bowman Gray School of Medicine. Then in March of 1987, the first group of us went on line as EMT-AI which was a new certification level in the State of North Carolina. Then in June of the same year five (5) of us took the "dreaded" Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) course given by the Life Flight folks at Vance-Granville. Amazingly, WE PASSED!!
In 1990 we held a second EMT-AI course in house. Then May 1, 1993 Person County EMS as it is now called, became a full Paramedic Service.
Over the years as our certification levels and experience advanced, the acceptance, support and even the respect of the County's population increased. The hard work and dedication of the Director and the employees over the years have made Person County EMS a well known and respected service throughout the state. I think we all, both present and past employees, can be proud of what has been accomplished.