Guilford County Ambulance Service is on life support

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Guilford County Emergency Services Director Jim Albright has to stay calm under the pressure because of his job, and he does.

However, Albright was very lively and sinister during a Guilford County Commissioners Council working session on Thursday, September 2 when he explained the immense strain on the county ambulance service today.

Albright’s message to the board was nothing short of alarming. The demand for ambulances far exceeds supply, and unless something major is done quickly, service will falter.

Albright told commissioners in the Blue Room at the Old Guilford County Courthouse that Guilford County Ambulance Services were taking water from all sides. COVID-19 patients are calling for ambulances en masse. Some drivers are unemployed due to the pandemic and response times are lengthening due to overwhelming demand in the county’s 651 square miles.

Albright said a performance metric used by the department is to have at least 90 percent of calls answered in less than nine minutes. While in the past the department achieved this goal, now only 55 percent of calls are answered within that time frame.

The director of emergency services told the board that the statistics for August were overwhelming and the projections for the coming months are alarming.

“Frankly, this is something that is not sustainable,” he told the board.

Albright said Guilford County emergency responders were exhausted and taking jobs in neighboring counties where demand was not so high.

One solution on the table is to allow the emergency services department to search for one or more contract suppliers on an emergency basis. Albright said given the current universal demand for emergency response workers, it’s not clear there will be takers.

County commissioners seemed rightly alarmed, and several – including President Skip Alston – have expressed a desire to give Albright and his department the support they need to resolve the issue.

“At the September 2 business meeting, the board voted unanimously to schedule a public hearing necessary to take action to remedy the situation in the manner suggested by Albright.”

After the meeting, Commissioner Alan Perdue said the potential cost of securing another service provider is currently unknown, but it should not be prohibitive for the county as much of the cost could be compensated by the income generated by each ambulance trip.


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