Volunteers come to the rescue after NC ambulance company closes


SUTTONTOWN, N.C. (WNCN) — Volunteers in Sampson County came to the rescue of dozens of patients and paramedics after a Goldsboro-based ambulance company closed at the end of August.

The owner of Johnston Ambulance Service (JAS) told CBS North Carolina he had to go out of business due to unpaid bills from customers. That caused immediate concerns for Sampson County Emergency Management, which is headquartered less than a mile from a JAS office.

“My first reaction was what’s it going to do to our call volume? It’s going to increase it certainly,” emergency management director Ronald Bass said.

The county’s Sampson Emergency Medical Services handles emergency medical calls, while JAS took care of non-emergency transports such as getting people from nursing homes to hospitals or patients to dialysis appointments.

Bass said if the county took over those calls, it could cause delays in paramedics getting to emergencies. “Time is of the essence, and it would have made a big impact on those folks,” he said.

Sampson County reached out to, and received calls from, other ambulance companies. They signed some temporary contracts and are negotiating long-term arrangements to make sure service continues.

In the interim, volunteer rescue crews like Suttontown EMS offered to help. Suttontown Chief Bradley Jackson said he and his team primarily respond to emergency calls, but they were glad to make some extra trips in order to serve and help their community.

“I was honestly kind of overwhelmed at the number of volunteers that was able to help out,” Jackson said. “But they volunteered their time and didn’t ever complain.

“Obviously patients have got to get transported somewhere,” he added. “Our take on it is if we didn’t do it, they were going to become EMS patients essentially.”

He said they have transported a few dozen non-emergency patients since the JAS closing. The emergency management director said other volunteer EMS groups did the same.

“We could not have done it without them,” Bass said. “It would have been virtually impossible to keep up with the call volume if we had not had the volunteers step up to the plate.”

He said some of the roughly 400 JAS employees who lost their jobs, including ambulance personnel and dispatch call center workers, have submitted applications to the county’s emergency services.

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