Greenville County Council has given County Administrator Joe Kernell a vote of confidence as he deals with the troubled Greenville County EMS system.

Kernell, who announced last week a $1.3 million plan to add 30 staff and six new ambulances, told the council that he has been working diligently to identify operational, morale, and performance issues after an online petition said Greenville County EMS was in “critical condition” and demanded immediate intervention.

The petition said there was a staffing crisis with emergency medical technicians and paramedics working hours after their shifts should have ended, resulting in “dangerous levels of fatigue,” a toxic culture, and morale that was at an all-time low.

EMS Director Tim Gault, who put in for retirement after the petition surfaced, is now on earned leave and no longer acting as director. A Greenville County human resources employee has been identified to work directly with EMS administration and personnel until a new director is hired.

“As of this point with where we are with EMS, a vote of confidence in how he’s dealing with that situation and other crises is very prudent,” said Councilman Lynn Ballard.

The vote of confidence came on the heels of an executive session that lasted nearly two hours and after Kernell outlined in open session the steps he had taken during the last week.

Joe Kernell

Kernell said he is making immediate changes to scheduling policies to allow part-time staff to work schedules that meet their individual scheduling needs. He said EMS’ part-time staff is mostly composed of experienced field personnel who have moved forward in other careers but still desire to work with Greenville County EMS. In addition, Kernell is enacting pay structures that make it more attractive for part-time EMS workers and getting staff input into EMS’ new dispatch system that is designed to improve response times.

He said poor communications is EMS’ biggest problem.

Kernell said communication between EMS administration and field staff would be improved, including long-term planning, immediate system adjustments, and sharing real-time data with field personnel at regular intervals.

Kernell said the biggest thing to come out of the meetings he’s had with EMS staff is the importance of creating a clear vision for employees on the future of EMS.

“I’m very confident we can accomplish this in a very short period of time,” Kernell said. “And I think we need to continue to thank the EMTs and paramedics that are out there every day doing a wonderful job of taking care of residents when they need it.”

Councilman Rick Roberts called Kernell’s plan a “great starting point.”

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