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911 calls won't be going to Duke EMS anymore due to new county regulations

After recent changes to Durham County’s emergency medical services system, Duke Emergency Medical Services will no longer be dispatched to 911 calls for the foreseeable future.

John Dailey, chief of Duke University Police Department, wrote in an email that DUPD is working to develop a new model, focused on oversight, that will allow Duke EMS to respond on campus. However, emergency medical response is governed by the state of North Carolina, so Duke EMS cannot operate independently.

“[Durham County wanted] Duke EMS to operate 24/7/365 and meet local educational requirements, both of which are very challenging with the academic workload of our student volunteers,” Dailey wrote. 

Despite no longer responding to calls, Duke EMS is still offering CPR and first aid, according to the Duke EMS website. Senior Jeffrey Ord, director of Duke EMS, declined to comment. 

Kevin Underhill, interim director and chief paramedic of Durham County EMS, said there should be no difference in call response times, since Durham County EMS has always been dispatched alongside Duke EMS. Durham Fire Department and DUPD will also continue to respond to calls.

“Durham EMS has never stopped running calls,” Underhill said. “There’s no lapse in coverage at all.” 

Kelly Haight, press assistant for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, wrote in an email that county officials overseeing the EMS system plan—the way Durham County oversees Duke EMS—are required to submit modification documents to change the service level of providers. Haight wrote that the North Carolina Office of EMS has not received any such documentation regarding Duke EMS. 

“These decisions are made locally as each county determines the most appropriate services for their respective county EMS system,” Haight wrote. 

Just months ago, the University was recognized as a HEARTsafe campus by the National Collegiate Emergency Medical Services Foundation due to the work of Duke EMS. The recent changes to the organization's operations are unlikely to affect their contention for the award going forward, as the award focuses on university training and accessibility to CPR and AED.


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