SPINDALE — Between the permanent closing of the Hickory Nut Gorge EMS and the temporary shuttering of Rutherford County Rescue, the county’s EMS will be required to shoulder more coverage.
Earlier this month, only two days apart, Hickory Nut Gorge EMS and Rutherford County Rescue notified the county they were stopping services. Although the latter is slated to resume duties on Oct. 21 after a 14-day stoppage, the county’s EMS will have to expand its services during the lapse.
Kerry Giles, director for Rutherford County EMS, has since appealed to the county’s fire departments for help when possible.
“The challenge these closures currently create, is that the county goes from having seven 24/7 ambulances responding to emergencies, to only five,” Giles said. “This could affect response times and the ability to provide inter-facility transports for Rutherford Regional, and coverage for area football games. Currently, Rutherford County EMS is utilizing all resources available to ensure emergency coverage by using all administrative personnel, mutual aid with surrounding counties, and assistance from the fire departments and emergency management.”
Both Hickory Nut Gorge EMS and Rutherford County Rescue handle low level emergency calls. Both agencies are nonprofit and privately owned and operated. They receive $92,202 annually from county taxpayers.
“Both squads also respond to additional calls to assist Rutherford County EMS,” Giles said. “They provide non emergency BLS (Basic Level Service) for inter-facility transports from Rutherford Regional to higher level hospitals as needed; as well as hospital discharges back to skilled nursing facilities. They also provide standby event coverage such as football games, Harris Speedway and motocross where and EMT is required to be on scene for the event. The rescue squads together make up about 30% of the total county call volume with the majority of the calls being BLS or non-emergency.”
Rumors had been swirling that both agencies had been undergoing various issues that threatened their respective services.
Hickory Nut Gorge recently announced its closure on Facebook.
“It comes with great sadness that we must announce the closing of Hickory Nut Gorge EMS. Since its founding in 1977, Hickory Nut Gorge strived to provide reputable medical service to residents of Lake Lure, Chimney Rock, Bills Creek, and other areas of Rutherford County. Due to a combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and funding, we were unable to continue operation financially,” the message stated from the agency’s board.
The announcement also reported that Rutherford County EMS would ensure service for the coverage area.
Reasons for the Rutherford County Rescue’s two-week closure remains unclear. It’s also unclear if the temporary halt could be extended or a signal of a more dire problem. Chief Sarah Kidd did not immediately return a telephone message seeking additional information.
Whatever unfolds, Rutherford County EMS hopes to bolster its service while increasing its number of ambulances. However, it remains hopeful the Rescue’s stoppage remains temporary. Rutherford County Rescue is still providing standby event coverage during their temporary shutdown for footballs games and other special events.
“It is Rutherford County EMS’ goal to once again have seven 24/7 ambulances available to respond to call in Rutherford County,” Giles said. “At this time, we are looking to add another ambulance to replace the one from Hickory Nut Gorge and it is our hope that Rutherford Rescue will have their ambulance back in service on October 21st.”