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Analysis: Business as usual for Buckeye Lake EMS service

BUCKEYE LAKE – A tragedy on Dockside Drive; a scathing report in the local newspaper – it’s still business as usual for Buckeye Lake Fire Chief Pete Leindecker and top village officials.

The Beacon asked Buckeye Lake Mayor Rick Baker if he had anything to say about last week’s report. “Just that we are trying to organize a meeting between the chief, Charlene (Council President Charlene Hayden), Clay (Council Safety Committee chair Clay Carroll) and myself. We are shooting for 5:00 Friday,” Baker responded.

A Tuesday, August 21, call for help confirms that nothing has changed. The 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. shift was not filled, meaning that only the 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. person was on duty. An unfilled shift isn’t unusual. It was the 17th unscheduled shift to date in August. Only one of those 17 shifts was filled by duty time.

The call came into the 911 Center at 12:08:59 p.m. reporting “heart problems” at an Elliott Avenue home. Buckeye Lake Medic 422 was dispatched at 12:10:19. The lone EMT on duty immediately responded that a crew was needed, asking that the tones be set off again in hopes that another EMT would respond. Buckeye Lake was dispatched again at 12:14:07. At 12:15:46 Buckeye Lake reported that the lone EMT was en route as a first responder and requested that tones be set off again for additional personnel.

The lone EMT reports “on scene” at 12:17:30. Eight minutes and 31 seconds have passed since the “heart problems” call was received. Now one person must carry in all the equipment, assess the patient’s medical condition, possibly deal with relatives and make the right medical decision as quickly as possible.

After about eight minutes, he requested mutual aid. Since Elliott Street is south of the entrance to the North Shore park, that meant the Millersport Fire Department. Millersport was dispatched at 12:26:14 and reported en route at 12:27:39.

Millersport arrived “on scene” at 12:33:29. Finally, Buckeye Lake’s lone EMT had help – a whopping 24 1/2 minutes after the call for help was received.

At 12:40:54, Millersport Medic 631 reported en route to Licking Memorial Hospital. Buckeye Lake’s Medic 422 and its lone EMT returned to the station. Medic 631 arrived at the hospital at 1:05:49 p.m. – nearly an hour (56 minutes, 50 seconds) after the call for help came in.

While the August 3 “no one on duty” call for help is not unusual, the “lone EMT” run is much more frequent. On August 3, Hebron paramedics were “on scene” in just over 13 minutes after the call for help was made. On August 21, the lone EMT didn’t have any help until more than 24 minutes after the call was received.

Both Hebron and Millersport make every effort to have at least one paramedic on every run. Buckeye Lake struggles to have the minimum required two EMTBasics on runs.

The distinction between a paramedic and EMT-Basic is critical, particularly on cardiac and problem breathing runs. For example, Ohio law prohibits an EMT-Basic from interpreting a cardiac monitor strip, performing manual defibrillation, administering cardiac medication, doing a cardioversion, interpreting a 12- lead EKG and performing carotid massage. The scope of practice for EMT-Basics is similarly limited relative to paramedics for other medical conditions.

The August 3 “no one on duty” call for help did not wake up Leindecker nor spur top village officials to take action. In fact, it appears that the first discussion of that incident MAY finally take place three weeks later.

The most important evaluation measures have gotten worse in the first 17 days of August compared to July. More than one-third (37.3 percent) of the shifts through August 17 were not filled, compared to 30.1 percent in July. No shows, which are part of the unfilled shift problem, represented 11.8 percent of the shifts, up from 10.8 percent in July. “Whenever” shifts (shift is unfilled for more than one hour) fell slightly from 23.7 percent in July to 21.6 percent through August 17. Unscheduled shifts through August 17 totaled 27.5 percent compared to 17.2 percent in July.

Here’s the day-by-day record of shame:

• Aug. 1 – all three shifts filled;
• Aug. 2 – one person daytime;
• Aug. 3 – no one daytime;
• Aug. 4 – all three shifts filled;
• Aug. 5 – no one daytime;
• Aug. 6 – one person daytime;
• Aug. 7 – all three shifts filled;
• Aug. 8 – one person daytime;
• Aug. 9 – one person daytime;
• Aug. 10 – one person daytime, no one at night;
• Aug. 11 – no one all day/
• Aug. 12 – no one daytime;
• Aug. 13 – one person daytime; • Aug. 14 – one person daytime; • Aug. 15 – one person daytime; • Aug. 16 – all three shifts
filled; and
• Aug. 17 – one person daytime.

Staffing was complete on just four of the first 17 days in August. That’s a miserable 23.5 percent which is a failing grade in any endeavor. It is a deadly grade for emergency medical services.

On just ONE of those four days, were all three shifts ontime (Aug. 16). There was one “late” (31-59 minutes unfilled) on August 7, two “lates” on August 1, one “whenever” (more than 60 minutes unfilled) on August 1 and two “whenevers” on Aug. 4. Just ONE day (6 percent) out of 17 days met the expected standard.

How to fix it!

Friday’s meeting, if it even happens, should be very short. Mayor Rick Baker should immediately ask Chief Pete Leindecker to resign. If Leindecker refuses, Baker should suspend him without pay and take steps to fire him. Leindecker has been living on borrowed time for years.

Former Mayor Frank Foster should have fired him when the Ohio Division of EMS caught Leindecker falsifying the continuing education credits required to renew his EMT-Basic certificate. Baker has already passed on two opportunities to give Buckeye Lake Village residents and visitors the leadership they deserve in the fire department. Last fall, Leindecker approved paying $970 to send his son to EMT-Basic school without council’s approval. That is a clear violation of ethics rules and the employee handbook.

Leindecker did it again early this year when he approved a similar payment for another EMT-Basic class for his son after he failed to successfully complete the first one. This unapproved payment was more egregious than the first. Last fall, Leindecker agreed to pay for tuition and books for seven EMT-Basic students. This year the payment was exclusively for his son.

Leindecker can NOT be part of the solution. He is a major part of the problem, but not the only one. Captain David Ruton and to a lesser extent Captain Toby Miller’s fingerprints are all over this debacle. All three have long been aware of the staffing failures and delayed response times. They have failed to raise these issues with the mayor, council or residents. Ruton’s wife, council member and Fire Lieutenant Arletta Ruton is also complicit.

Their failure doesn’t give the mayor or council members a free pass on responsibility for our broken EMS system. Just glancing at the fire station when driving by is enough to see it often isn’t staffed properly.

Next week: More details on how to fix our broken EMS system and what it’s costing residents.

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