2013-04-13 / Editorials & Letters

Support Patients 1st

It’s obvious, after Monday night’s Buckeye Lake Village Council meeting, that residents are going to have to get a lot more vocal if they want the Patients 1st EMS service they have paid for and deserve.

Village officials still don’t get it or maybe they don’t want to get it. Control and pride are still more important to them than the patients that elected them.

A critical meeting with Hebron officials is set for 6 p.m. this Friday (April 12) in Hebron Council chambers. This is the first face-to-face meeting since the Feb. 14 ‘good start’ meeting. Hebron will present more detailed numbers about the costs to provide Patients 1st EMS service to Buckeye Lake Village residents and visitors. Council members Clay Carroll and Artletta Ruton, and Fire Capt. Dave Ruton got a preliminary look at Hebron’s numbers when they showed up at a March 7 Hebron Safety Committee meeting. Those numbers in the low $200,000’s are affordable.

An affordable agreement for Patients 1st EMS service is very doable. Unfortunately, Buckeye Lake officials going into Friday’s meeting appear to be looking for reasons to reject a deal rather than focusing on how to get one done.

For The Beacon, this issue started with our detailed August 18, 2012, report on the Buckeye Lake Fire Department’s failure to respond to a critically injured man on Dockside Drive. We have documented a near total breakdown in the management of the village’s part-time PAID staff for EMS services. Shifts aren’t scheduled; parttimers don’t show up for scheduled shifts; and part-timers arrive late, leave early or both. These failures have been documented back through March 2012. That’s over a year folks! We are very confident that they go back through 2011 and 2010 as well.

So far, the control and pride faction is winning. First, a Sept. 6, 2012, directive from Mayor Rick Baker to Fire Chief Pete Leindecker that he request that mutual aid be dispatched after three minutes (rather than the current six to eight minute delay) was ignored for months. Even after it became the centerpiece of the mayor’s own advisory committee’s recommendations, the control and pride cronies were able to scuttle it without any repercussions from the mayor or council. No one from Buckeye Lake even attended the Licking County Fire Chiefs Association’s Dec. 19, 2012, committee meeting set specifically to discuss it.

In a sleight of hand that would impress David Cooperfield, Buckeye Lake moved from a directive/recommended MAXIMUM three-minute delay to dispatch mutual aid to a new department policy setting a MINIMUM three-minute delay to request mutual aid. Patient care is thumped by saving runs for Buckeye Lake. As expected, setting MINIMUM (no maximum) waits for an additional Buckeye Lake cardholder so the patient can be transported legally has led to slower initial response times and longer waits at the scene. Patient care suffers, but mutual aid requests fall. It’s a big win for control and pride.

Our praise for Baker and optimism for patients after the Feb. 14 meeting was premature. Control and pride doubled down after learning a Hebron contract is affordable. The latest tactic is to attack Hebron. This story has its roots in an 8:47 a.m. call on Feb. 22 about a fall on Myers Avenue. The PAID day crew was a person short, leaving an inexperienced paramedic/untrained squad driver to drive on some still slick streets. It took nearly nine minutes to get to the scene and another 12 minutes before asking for help from Hebron. The Buckeye Lake paramedic wanted a Hebron paramedic to drive the Buckeye Lake squad to the hospital. The Hebron squad would follow. That’s what happened, taking two squads and three paramedics out of service. That’s not efficient use of resources nor patient friendly if another call comes in while both units are out of service.

That led to a directive from Hebron Fire Chief Randy Weekly that no Hebron EMS vehicle (squad) will follow another department’s unit to the hospital to pick up personnel. Other vehicles like the grass truck or chief’s car could be used if necessary to pick up personnel. Weekly also wrote if a department requesting mutual aid doesn’t have a legal crew to transport (at least two EMT-Basics) then it is “this department’s policy to transport the patient in a ‘Hebron’ vehicle to the hospital.” Transferring a patient from one EMS vehicle to another was left up to Hebron’s officer or person in charge at the scene.

This issue arose on a 1:06:42 a.m. dispatch March 28, to Lynn Street in Maple Bay on a problem breathing run. One EMT-Basis was on duty and a volunteer responded. It took the squad 10:13 minutes to get to Lynn Street. Our information on this run was incomplete last week. Buckeye Lake heads to the hospital 15 minutes after arriving, but notes a change in the patient’s condition (point for Buckeye Lake) and requests mutual aid from Hebron. Buckeye Lake’s two EMT-Basics aren’t allowed by state regulation to interpret a heart monitor and asked the Hebron medic to read it. The patient is now the responsibility of Hebron’s paramedic; Buckeye Lake has turned over the patient to a higher level of care which is quite common. Hebron’s paramedic, citing Weekly’s directive, decides to treat and transport the patient in his (Hebron’s) squad. Eight minutes after being dispatched, Hebron is heading to the hospital.

The control and pride dead-enders have latched onto this transfer like a snapping turtle. Council Member Arletta Ruton hand-delivered a written public records request to Hebron for the policy around 1 p.m. that same day. She was probably working on it when a stroke call on Wood Street came in at 12:23. Again Buckeye Lake was short a person on the PAID day crew. Ruton, a volunteer paramedic, didn’t respond but continued on her mission to make Hebron look bad for making a very reasonable decision. Buckeye Lake’s lone EMT then waits more than 26 minutes before requesting mutual aid from guess who, Hebron. That same afternoon, Captains Toby Miller and Dave Ruton, now armed with Hebron’s policy, find time to head to the Licking Township Fire Company to try to incite them against Hebron. Several control and pride friendly council members were also tipped off about Hebron’s ‘outrageous’ conduct.

This is a lot of huffing and puffing about nothing. If someone wants to get upset, start with why it took Buckeye Lake 10 minutes to travel 1.3 miles to Lynn Street. If you want to get angry, ask why Buckeye Lake’s PAID EMT that night clocked out at 1:58 a.m. leaving NO ONE on duty for the next SIX HOURS. That’s the REAL outrage.

It’s all about them, not patients. Your support is needed to get the care you deserve. Come to the Hebron meeting (6 p.m., Friday, April 12). Tell your elected officials you want Patient 1st care by displaying a FREE decal on your vehicle. Pick one up at The Beacon or from a neighbor. Patients 1st!

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