LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Board of Commissioners on Monday agreed to amend its franchise agreement with the Lumberton Rescue Squad and Emergency Medical Services so that paramedics with the entity can make home visits to Lumberton patients recently discharged from Southeastern Regional Medical Center.
The visits by the off-duty paramedics is being funded by a two-year $310,000 grant from Duke Endowment. The grant is aimed at reducing the number of discharged patients who make a return visit to the hospital within 30 days of their discharge.
Wayne Martin, who manages the hospital’s Seventh Bed Tower, said that under the Affordable Health Care Act, hospitals can be penalized monetarily if large numbers of discharged patients return to the hospital within 30 days. Last year Southeastern Regional Medical Center was penalized $400,000, according to Robert Ivey, commander of the Lumberton Rescue Squad and EMS.
“At Southeastern the readmission rate is 27 percent,” Martin said. “That’s a substantial rate.”
The hospital decided to seek the grant to provide follow-up home visits to discharged patients suffering from congestive heart failure, heart attacks and respiratory failure at the suggestion of the rescue squad.
Under the program, paramedics perform the follow-up visit within a few days of a patient being discharged. They look for factors that may lead to a patient’s second hospital visit. They also check the patient’s medication to see that it is properly being administered, as well as provide the patient with education about symptoms of their illness.
“I like to call this community medicine,” said Greg Bounds, director of Robeson County’s Emergency Services. “If we educate the patients, there may not be another need for them to return to the hospital.”
The commissioners had to amend the county’s franchise with the rescue unit because under the current franchise, paramedics can only provide services if there is a 911 dispatch. According to Bounds and Martin, Wake County is the only other local government in North Carolina that offers such a monitoring program for discharged patients.
Ivey said that about 12 paramedics will be involved in the program. The grant provides for them to be paid $35 an hour.
Initially, the program — to begin in February — is only being offered in Lumberton.
“Our goal is to reduce the number of return hospital visits,” Bounds said. “If in two years the numbers shows the program is worthwhile, it will be expand throughout the entire county.”
According to Martin, the paramedics will receive additional training on environmental and medical factors that may force a second visit to the hospital within 30 days.
In other business, the commissioners on Monday four incumbent commissioners — Raymond Cummings in District 5, Roger Oxendine in District 3, Jerry Stephens in District 1 and Tom Taylor in District 7 — were sworn in for new four-year terms.
Commissioner Noah Woods was re-elected as board chairman and Taylor was re-elected vice chairman. Woods has been chairman since July 2006. Taylor has served as vice chairman for the past eight years.
In other business, the commissioners:
— Passed a resolution recognizing James “Jimmy” Jones, 85, for “extraordinary valor and service in defense of our country, as well as defense of what our country stands for.” Jones served as a Tuskegee Airman during World War II. In July he received a Congressional Gold Medal.
— Approved a resolution in support of naming the bridge to be constructed at Exit 22 of Interstate 95 in honor of Master Police Officer Jeremiah M. Goodson Jr. The resolution will be forwarded to the state Department of Transportation, the agency that will make a final decision on the bridge name.
Goodson was killed on July 17 while attempting to make an arrest.
— Reappointed Joe Bailey and Larece Hunt to the county’s Health Board.
— Approved Woods as the county’s voting member at the Legislative Goals Conference of the North Carolina Association of commissioners. The conference will be held in January.
— Approved three conditional-use permits for family cemeteries; two conditional-use permits for Internet Sweepstakes businesses; and a rezoning request to allow for the storage of commercial vehicles and a produce stand.