Sullivan County EMS Growing Against the Grain - Facing Industry-Wide Issues

John M. Dabbs

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Sullivan County Medic-14 standing by with Air Force One during President Trump's visit to Freedom HallSullivan County EMS/Facebook

Sullivan County EMS is suffering from growing pains in the midst of an industry-wide shortage of qualified EMS personnel. Sullivan County Commissioners approved a pay increase a while back, that has finally been implemented to help those working the streets.

The county agency has suffered many hard losses recently, and dedicated new stations to the fallen.

Growing at SCEMS

Sullivan County officials have been working with officials in Kingsport and Bristol, Tennessee to build permanent ambulance stations for the county's ambulance service. The first permanent home came when the county decided to build a structure beside the jail annex in Blountville, home to EMS Station 1, back in the 1990s.

New funds infused life back into the service when another brick and mortar station was built and opened in the Gibson Mill Road area near Stone Drive, named in honor of fallen Sullivan County EMS Paramedic Carles "Junior" Godsey.

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Junior Godsey EMS Station - KingsportJohn Dabbs/Photographer

The Godsey station is also a training center, with a large state-of-the-art classroom built onto the backside of the facility. "Junior" Godsey was all about training, was a lifetime member and member of the board at the Kingsport Lifesaving Crew, and served as a part-time flight paramedic at Wings Air Rescue. Godsey lost his life during a rescue mission during the Carter County Flood of 1998.

McGrew Station

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Fred McGrew EMS Station - KingsportJohn Dabbs/Photographer

A second new station recently opened in 2021, dedicated to retired paramedic Fred C. McGrew of Bluff City. McGrew was not only a lifetime member of the Bluff City Rescue Squad, he was in the first graduating paramedic class at Tri-Cities State Technical Institute (now known as Northeast State Community College). McGrew lost his fight with cancer in August of last year. The Fred McGrew EMS Station is on the campus of the Sullivan County Health Department's Kingsport office off Wilcox Drive.

Brown and Carrier

Two other Bluff City Rescue Squad members and paramedics at Sullivan County EMS are also remembered with the new ambulance station going up in Bluff City in River Bend, just off US 11E. Paramedic Phil Brown, a long-time Bluff City native was one of the first paramedics in Bluff City and worked for Sullivan County EMS back when it was the Sullivan County Ambulance Service, and part of the county's Civil Defense agency. Brown died recently after retirement.

The station is also named in honor of paramedic Sabrina Carrier. Carrier succumbed to injuries sustained in an automobile accident on her way to work in 2008. The Phil Brown and Sabrina Carrier EMS Station is being built on the same plans as the Fred McGrew EMS Station in Kingsport. It is fitting the Bluff City residents are united in more ways than one.

The Bluff City EMS Station is being built on property acquired from the City of Bristol, Tennessee. Bristol had purchased the property in the 1990s when strip annexation was in vogue and was to be the site of the newest Bristol Tennessee Fire Department station. Plans changed after Exide Technologies moved into the old Sperry building and converted it into a battery plant, with the city building a larger fire station across the road on what became Exide Drive.

The next generation

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The sun sets on one generation and rises with anotherSullivan County EMS/Facebook

As a former paramedic with Sullivan County myself, I know firsthand the growth and improvements taking place at Sullivan County EMS. The next generation of EMS providers has better equipment and more of it. There are more of them too, as the call volume is much higher than it was during my tenure at the agency. Support from county and city leaders, along with sound leadership at the Sullivan County Health Department, Sullivan County EMA, Sullivan County EMS, and the county mayor's office have contributed to unprecedented growth for the agency.

The citizens of Sullivan County should be proud of the county's emergency medical service..., especially during EMS Week!

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Bristol, TN
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