2013-02-23 / Editorials & Letters

‘A good start’

That’s how Buckeye Lake Village Mayor Rick Baker described last week’s one-hour EMS meeting with Hebron officials. Baker, council members Clay Carroll and Barry Herron, and Fire Captain Dave Ruton met with Hebron Mayor Clifford Mason; council members Pam DeVaul, Jim Friend and Alayna Morris; Village Administrator Ralph Wise, and Fire Chief Randy Weekly. At the end, Baker suggested scheduling the next meeting to “keep the conversation going.” (That meeting is set for 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 28, in the Hebron Municipal Complex, 934 W. Main St. It is open to the public).

We agree with Baker’s assessment. Mason termed the meeting an “open discussion,” asking Baker at one point about his goal. Baker said his goal is 24/7 paramedic service.

That’s a breakthrough! Finally patient care gets top billing. We’ve heard Buckeye Lake officials talking about improving communications, boosting morale at the fire department and saving the fire department, but nothing about focusing on what’s best for patients.

It’s now been six months since The Beacon began documenting the fire department’s broken EMS operation. In that time, directives from the mayor were ignored/forgotten. An outside review committee’s primary recommendation was ignored/sabotaged. Part-time paid employees were added, while others drifted away or cut their hours. And the department’s top officers implemented a new Standard Operating Guideline setting minimum wait times to request mutual aid.

Through it all, patients - who should be the top priority - were ignored/forgotten. Shifts still aren’t scheduled/covered; paid employees don’t show up, arrive late or leave early; one-person crews wait critical minutes for another cardholder to show up before requesting mutual aid; and treatment/transport continues to be delayed. The new guideline has reduced mutual aid requests, but is also delaying treatment/transport. The department is keeping more of their runs, but it may cost you your life.

We applaud Baker for his commitment to patient care. It is critical for the health of residents and visitors that his commitment be steadfast. We must hold him to it.

Mason told Baker last week, “We can do anything you want. We can put together a plan.” The basic plan is for Hebron to provide and manage staff to provide EMS services to Buckeye Lake Village. It could be the 12-hour 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. overnight shift or around the clock. We believe around the clock makes the most sense. That way there are no questions about who is responsible or in charge.

Mason said Hebron is willing to staff the Buckeye Lake Fire Station during the day with two EMT-Basics. On calls potentially needing advanced life support (paramedic care) such as anything involving the heart, strokes, difficulty breathing, non-breathing, or serious injuries, a paramedic would be immediately dispatched from Hebron to assist the two Buckeye Lake-based EMTs.

Hebron is working up some cost estimates and Buckeye Lake is to provide some detailed run data. A win/win deal is very doable. Hebron is hurting financially after Union Township unilaterally cut its financial support by more than $200,000 for 2013. And the last six months have clearly demonstrated that the Buckeye Lake Fire Department isn’t capable of fixing itself. Each day that we wait to truly put patients first increases the likelihood that you, a family member, neighbor or visitor will pay dearly for the delay.

Please thank Baker for his commitment to patient care and urge him to ensure it by reaching an agreement with Hebron. It is not a done deal. As recently as Monday night’s safety committee, council member Arletta Ruton claimed Mason had a conflict of interest since he agreed to serve on the review committee. That’s rich considering her very real conflict of interest was noted in the village’s last state audit. She also passed out copies of a four-year-old Dispatch story about unionized firefighters giving Mason a vote of no-confidence when he was Madison Township’s fire chief. The Rutons are apparently willing to do or say anything to keep their grip on the department and your taxes.

Some council members still seem to believe that we can do 24/7 service ourselves with just a bit of tweaking. Some believe that Hebron’s cost will be too high before even seeing their proposals. Make no mistake, these are just excuses for doing nothing. Six months of ‘nothing’ was far too long and dangerous to our health. We’ve got a ‘good start.’ Now we’ve got to get it done.

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