Wake County Consolidates Emergency Medical Services

On May 4, Wake County EMS will begin operating under a single, unified agency. Currently, the Wake County Department of EMS provides more than 70% of the 911 ambulance service on the road, and it contracts with two non-for-profit agencies, Cary EMS and Eastern Wake EMS, to supplement 911 ambulance response. The consolidation brings all EMS responders into a single agency – the Wake County Department of EMS.  

The consolidation will not affect the high level of service residents currently receive. The same number of EMS crews and ambulances will remain available, and no areas will lose EMS coverage. 

“This operational change allows us to maintain the top-notch EMS service and coverage our community expects while saving Wake County money, which is important – especially in this challenging economy,” said David Ellis, Wake County manager. “Consolidating allows us to reduce costs and improve our ability to adapt more quickly to the evolving demands of a rapidly growing area.” 

EMS Governance  
According to North Carolina law, the county is responsible for providing emergency medical services. It also has the authority to determine how to offer those services. In Wake County, these decisions are made by EMS Director/Medical Director Dr. Jose Cabañas. 

Out of 100 counties in North Carolina, 87 operate their EMS under a single primary 911 ambulance provider. Only 12 of them – including Wake County – still have multiple 911 ambulance providers.  

“A single-provider approach is the most affordable way to serve our residents while meeting the increasing demand for services from our growing population,” said Dr. Cabañas. “It’s time to bring all of our providers into one agency as most counties across the state have. The same people will provide the same service in the same places but with improved efficiency.” 

All Current Employees Offered Positions in Unified Agency 
EMS providers currently employed by Cary EMS and Eastern Wake EMS will be offered positions with the Wake County Department of EMS, which include improved benefits and membership in the local government retirement system.   

In addition, outreach programs such as CPR classes, school visits and citizens’ academies will continue helping educate and inform residents of all ages about what to do in a medical emergency.  

Long History of EMS Consolidations in Wake County 
Over the past 50 years, Wake County has seen many consolidations and mergers. As many as 18 different agencies have existed since 1962, and now, only three remain. The consolidation in May will complete the process, marking the next natural step in the growth and development of the EMS system in Wake County. 

Here’s what employees who have been through that process say about the transition: 

“There were many more opportunities when we came to Wake County EMS. We were a family before, but we just became a bigger family when we joined the county,” says Carissa Lewis, a member of the former Six Forks EMS, which ceased EMS service in 2011.   

Brian Brooks was a paramedic with Garner EMS, which closed its doors in 2010. He now serves as a district chief with Wake County EMS. 

“I know change causes anxiety, but I came with an open mind, and I realized that working at Wake County EMS is really the same thing,” says Brooks. “I know several of my coworkers in Garner were skeptical, but they transitioned too and have excelled here.”

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