Williston Rescue Squad’s fate uncertain

First Byline: 
David Purtell - Staff Writer

Williston Rescue Squad has been serving the Barnwell County community for years, but whether it will continue to be a reliable EMS service is unclear.
Officials from WRS met with county council members in closed session during council's regular meeting Feb. 11. The agenda for the meeting said the discussion was about a "proposed contractual matter related to the Williston Rescue Squad." The session lasted for more than an hour, and council took no action after the session ended.
Council chairman Freddie Houston said WRS has been notified of a debt claim it may have to pay, and that if it has to pay the claim it won't be able to maintain the level of service laid out in its contract with Barnwell County.
Currently, WRS is operating on a month-to-month contract with the county worth about $80,000 a month. It used to be an annual contract, but after the county's hospital was sold to a private company last year the county moved to monthly contracts with WRS in anticipation of the hospital eventually picking up the bill for an EMS company in the county.
Monday, current WRS Director Phil Clark said the meeting was to discuss certain "issues" and that WRS will continue to operate on a month-to-month contract with the county.
Asked if there were any pending financial issues that could force WRS to stop service, Clark said, "If we're not able to fulfill the (contractual) obligations we'll let the county know about it."
In February 2013, it was revealed that WRS had reached an $800,000 settlement agreement with the Department of Justice regarding the Medicare fraud the company was accused of between 2008 and 2011. The $800,000 was to be paid out in $10,000 monthly installments.
Southern Palmetto Hospital CEO Mary Valliant said, "At this point there is no immediate decision" regarding the future of EMS service in the county.
Asked if the hospital is looking for another ambulance service, Valliant said, "It's too early to comment" on the topic and that the hospital is focused on the immediate needs people have following last week's ice storm.