Polk Rescue Squad to add paid staff

Published 11:48 pm Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Rescue squad will bill patients for transports; contracting with hospitals, hospice

COLUMBUS—Since being a completely volunteer organization since it was chartered in 1960, the Polk County Rescue Squad will soon hire paid part-time staff. 

The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday night and was presented the rescue squad’s business plan. 

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Rescue Squad Captain James Smith and Training Officer Larry Walker presented the plan. 

County Manager Marche Pittman said commissioners gave the rescue squad additional funding this year and presenting a business plan was one of the conditions. 

Commissioner Ray Gasperson asked if the rescue squad has implemented the plan and if it is now collecting more revenues. 

Smith said the plan has not yet been implemented. 

Smith said they plan to hire 5 part-time employees and be staffed Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. -5 p.m. The plan will mean that Polk County EMS will not be tied up on non-emergency calls. 

“It’s beneficial for both parties,” Pittman said. “I think long-term it will be a successful venture.” 

Gasperson asked how many calls the rescue squad normally responds to. 

Walker said they have responded to about 600 calls so far this year and some calls have to be turned down because all the volunteers work full time jobs. 

The Polk County Rescue Squad EMS is a nonprofit 501(c)3 that is volunteer based currently. 

The business plan states that in an effort to recover possible revenue from EMS operations and assist the Polk County Rescue EMS to become more self-sustaining, the board of directors and members voted on Jan. 8, 2019 to begin providing staffing during day hours and to begin billing for ambulance transports. The rescue squad has contracted with a third party billing firm, Colleton Software to assist with paperwork and filing of insurance. 

Rescue squad history

During a severe snowstorm/blizzard in November 1959, 7 local men met and saw a need to provide emergency care and transport. Those men purchased a van and reconditioned it to create the rescue squad’s first ambulance. 

The Polk County Rescue Squad was chartered by the state on Jan. 3, 1960. In the beginning, the rescue squad answered calls of help out of the basement of a bar in Tryon, then moved to various buildings in Tryon. The current land on Walker Street in Columbus was purchased in 1985 where the building was constructed. 

Plans are in place to hire the employees, at a pay rate of $10-$11 an hour this month as well as begin billing for transports this month. The rescue squad plans to contract with Hospice of the Carolina Foothills, St. Luke’s Hospital and local nursing homes to provide convalescent ambulance services in November. 

A new power stretcher is also scheduled to be purchased in July 2020; a new ambulance scheduled to be purchased in July 2021 and a new site and facility to be purchased in July 2023.