2013-02-02 / Editorials & Letters

Council makes wise decision; one more needed

Buckeye Lake Village Council members made a wise decision last week. They decided not to spend $8,000+ to put the fire levy renewal on the May ballot. One more wise decision would make approval certain in November.

It’s not a tough one. Mayor Rick Baker and council members simply need to adopt a “Patient First” strategy for the village’s emergency medical services. It’s not complicated - just put the needs of patients first!

Now almost six months after the Dockside Drive tragedy, Baker and most council members still are more interested in preserving the department and its leadership than making sure residents and visitors receive proper treatment.

From our first report in mid-August, Baker has shied away from making the changes necessary to put patients’ needs first. He ordered the fire chief to instruct the Licking County 9-1-1 Center to dispatch mutual aid after three minutes. He then allowed the chief to ignore that directive for months. Baker’s fire department review committee’s primary recommendation was to dispatch mutual aid after three minutes, down from the 6-8 minutes currently.

Then no one from Buckeye Lake even showed up at a Licking County Fire Chiefs Association committee meeting specifically called on Dec. 19 to discuss the request. Suddenly and without explanation or public discussion, Baker dropped the key recommendation to improve service to patients.

Baker apparently favors a Standard Operating Guideline (SOG) drafted by the fire department. It was first presented at a Dec. 13 Safety Committee meeting and became effective Jan. 1 without being discussed, much less approved at a full council meeting. It’s best described as a Run Preservation Policy. Its objective is to save runs for Buckeye Lake by setting minimum waits BEFORE requesting mutual aid. Fire department members are subject to discipline if they fail to follow this SOG.

Here are key elements taken word for word from the SOG (emphasis added):

• “When at least one (1) EMS cardholder is present on station the EMS vehicle shall be responding to the incident within three (3) minutes of the time of dispatch. NO mutual aid is to be started prior to three (3) minute (sic) from time of dispatch to allow for the department’s volunteer cardholders to respond prior to calling for mutual aid...”

• “In the event that a run is dispatched while the department is on another run (2nd run in progress), the crew handling the first run shall start mutual aid NO EARLIER than three (3) minutes after the time of dispatch...”

• “In the event that a cardholder is not on station, mutual aid shall be started according to the policy then in effect at the Licking County 9-1-1 Center.” If two cardholders don’t respond, that means at least a SIX MINUTE and possible EIGHT MINUTE DELAY.

Notice that they are NO deadlines to request mutual aid if a crew doesn’t show up! Members are only subject to discipline if they request mutual aid too QUICKLY. There are also provisions to turn away or send mutual aid home should a volunteer cardholder arrive to assist. Reducing mutual aid runs may make the current leadership look useful, but it harms patient care.

Here’s some recent examples of how it’s working in the real world. Mutual aid runs have dropped more than 60 percent (from 18 in the six weeks before Dec. 14 to just seven in the six weeks starting Dec. 14).

• Dec. 14: A 3:26:54 a.m. call about breathing problems on West 1st Street. One EMT was on duty, arriving on the scene in 6:24. Mutual aid from Hebron was requested 10:36 minutes after the initial dispatch, then delayed until 15:23 minutes after the initial dispatch. Hebron was on the scene 19:08 minutes after the initial dispatch. So nearly 20 minutes passed before the patient could even be legally transported;

• Dec. 24: A 4:39:25 p.m. call about a sick person on Highland Avenue. Buckeye Lake arrives in 3:54, but 12:05 minutes have passed before Hebron is asked for mutual aid;

• Jan. 23: A 10:47:04 a.m. call about a sick person at the Buckeye Lake Post Office. The Buckeye Lake squad was at the hospital on a previous run, yet waited 7:02 minutes before requesting mutual aid from Millersport. Insanely, the new SOG sets a three minute MINIMUM WAIT in such instances. There is NO limit on how long to wait, so the crew compiled with the new SOG. Millersport arrived in 4:33 minutes, but 11:35 minutes had passed since the initial dispatch. Luckily, it wasn’t a heart attack or a stroke.

• Jan. 26: A 9:19:58 p.m. call about heart problems on East Street. It takes 13:03 minutes for Buckeye Lake to arrive. Mutual aid wasn’t requested. That delay could have been deadly if it had been a heart attack.

There are more examples. The lives of residents and visitors are at risk EVERYDAY due to village officials’ refusal to put PATIENTS FIRST.

There is a simple solution. Contract now with Hebron for no delay EMS service. They will arrive able to immediately transport you if needed (no waiting for another cardholder) and can provide advanced life support (paramedic on every run) to save your life. We can afford it. The fire department carried over $115,000 into 2013 and will get some $225,000 in our taxes this year. Somewhere around $200,000 a year will get the deal done with Hebron.

Patient care has NOT materially improved since our first report. It’s time to stop trying to prop up a disfunctional department and focus on saving lives!

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