Monday, April 13, 2009

State did its job on EMS oversight

Bluffton Today

This week I’d like to begin with a few comments about our state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) along with its Commissioner, Earl Hunter. In particular, I want to address a report that came from DHEC relating to an incident in Bluffton where one of our neighbors was beaten and injured.

The report had to do with the response of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and how they handled the case. While the county is the employer of the EMS technicians, the state is responsible for ensuring that proper protocols and procedures are uniformly applied throughout the state.

The incident was reported in the papers, along with comments from interested parties questioning whether the EMS personnel working the case adhered to proper procedure or exercised good judgment in the execution of their duties. The county responded immediately with its own investigation and requested that DHEC also look into the matter, as well.

Serious questions were asked that triggered a serious, comprehensive response from the supervising parties, as it should.

When the DHEC report was issued, there was criticism from several quarters that it appeared sketchy and didn’t adequately address several key areas of concern. My conversation with Commissioner Hunter revealed that the report was guided by the facts of the case but also there were many places where disclosure of certain details would violate privacy laws designed to shield the parties from potential harm or unwarranted embarrassment.

My take on this was to go to the privacy statutes and see for myself whether the public’s right to know should trump the public’s right to be protected. The result of my search was something of a mixed bag, with some portions of the law being absolutely necessary, some dubious but justifiable, and some simply need to be revisited.

As to the report in question, I found it to be fair, accurate and presented in a timely fashion, within the constraints of applicable law. This is pretty much what I conveyed to Commissioner Hunter.

One of the things that I am constantly looking out for is how the different levels of government deliver the services they are mandated to provide. Are the elected officials and senior managers providing the proper guidance and support to those on the front lines who are engaged in inspecting for building code compliance, or cleaning the ditches on the sides of the roads, or designing and building those roads?

I want to make sure we in government are the solvers and preventers of problems and not just part of the problem.

I want to remind you that Heritage is upon us and we need to be on our best behavior with regard to visitors. They are here to support our economy while they enjoy the beauty of the Lowcountry landscape. The golf tournament is a splendid event with history and spectacle, but the real heart of the matter is about southern hospitality and charm. Even with earthshaking construction on May River Road, Bluffton exemplifies much of the best of what makes us who we are. Please do your part. Be nice.