Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Message to City of Kingston - More Fire Companies CUT OUT MEDICAL CALLS

The following article appeared in this Monday's Times Herald Record


Posted: November 16, 2009 - 2:00 AM

Times Herald-Record

TOWN OF WALLKILL — Last year, Circleville firefighters responded to 176 medical emergency calls in its district — one-third of the total calls it handled.

Now, they're looking to cut those numbers significantly.

The district recently decided it will no longer provide automatic response for medical calls. Department Chief Walter Szulwach says that with two ambulance companies in the town, as well as one ambulance stationed at its firehouse on Goshen Turnpike, sending firefighters out to medical calls is redundant.

"It's just not a prudent use of resources," Szulwach says. "A lot of times when we responded to medical calls, an ambulance was already at the scene."

It's a step many fire companies throughout the region have taken. Most of the 52 Orange County fire companies don't provide automatic response to medical calls, including 12 that don't respond, period. Eighteen out of Ulster County's 50 fire companies don't respond to medical calls, nor do 26 of the 40 fire companies in Sullivan County. Sullivan County 911 coordinator Alex Rau says fire companies in Rock Hill, Bloomingburg and Wurtsboro have recently scaled back their medical-call responses.

One reason is financial: deploying firefighters and equipment costs money. But the bigger reason is manpower. For companies already struggling for personnel, it's not only about having the time to handle medical calls, but also having the time to go through the necessary additional training.

To handle medical calls, Orange County fire coordinator John Horan says at the very least, firefighters should be trained as medical first responders. "It doesn't do a fire company any good to say, 'We're going to do medical calls,' and your members can't spell 'medical,'" Horan says. "If you're going to do medical calls, the training is extensive."

But is public safety compromised when fire companies pull out of the medical emergency business? Rau doesn't believe so. "If a fire department isn't getting manpower out to medical calls, has there been a compromise?" he says.

Circleville, which Szulwach says will have eight certified emergency medical technicians as members by year's end, will still respond to medical calls if requested by an ambulance service, or if there aren't any other emergency responders available.

But with a projected 2010 budget of more than $600,000, in a struggling economy, Szulwach says the move away from medical calls is a logical way to control operating costs.

"This will benefit our taxpayers," Szulwach says.


Anonymous said...

So let me get this straight, in these economic times, you are advocating that the FD does less work? You have trained personal strategically located throughout the city and you don't want them to help the citizens because you feel the cost of the diesel used to run those calls is going to bankrupt the City? In your article (nicely highlighted by the way) it doesn't state whether the depts listed are paid or volunteer. I would guess they are volunteer because they have the OPTION to respond. I imagine they have the same OPTION to respond to other calls in the middle of the night or during foul weather. The EMS program is cost effective. Why attack depts that actually work well. Focus on the SafetyNet program.

Ralph Mitchell said...

To 7:39AM,
This morning on Kingston Community Radio (KCR) on WGHQ radio, I asked Al Teetsel, Kingston Ward 1 Alderman, if the SafetyNet problem came up during this year's budget discussion on the City Finance Committee, on which he is a member. He said no and that he did not know the latest status of the proposal to have Ulster County pick up part of the Safetynet Welfare costs which the City of Kingston pays 100%. Al said that he would check with former Kingston Alderman Maryann Parker about her knowledge of the Safetynet issue. Bottomline, it appears the present Kingston Council is not including this including this Safetynet issue in the 2010 City budget discussions.

Anonymous said...

There is a middle road to this. The Fire Department can also switch to responding to Life Threatening Emergencies only. This is done by some depts in the county and helps to lower the call volume. This will eliminate calls for people that just want a taxi ride to the hospital. Take that and lockouts away from the city's response and you will find shutting down a firehouse to be a very easy proposition.

The the fire chief doesn't like that than tell him you are shutting down the hosue anyway and that he is more than welcome to use volunteers in their place.

Anonymous said...

from KPFF Union website:

from 2000-2007, 59.65% of all calls logged were ems.

from 2000-2007, 2.9% were actual fires.


We contract with Mobile Life, Hudson Valley, Diaz ambulances and others to also go to the medical calls.

WHY? Because KFD dispatchers are making the calls. If county 911 was handling things - like in most other counties (including those with cities as their county seat) - it wouldn't be an issue.

If you want to pay ambulance companies, make them work for their money. If you want KFD to do the job, then make them work for theirs. The other entity can be available in the case of mutual aid... like everywhere else in the firematic world.

Move dispatch responsibilities over to county, choose fd or ambulance to respond to ems, and reduce the shift and the pay of the kfd. Then give non-monetary incentives to beef up the volunteers and set an all volunteer shift.

Ralph Mitchell said...

To 10:00PM,

I shared your information by posting it on Rich Cahill's blog

By the way, the readers of this blog my like to know that the web site for the Kingston Professional Fire Fighters is ---------->

Anonymous said...

Yes it is true. Many fire companies only respond to some medical calls. It is what is known as a teir two response. For example the FD is only dispatched when there is chest pains, difficulty breathing, car accident with entrapment etc. For routine, medical calls, ambulance only. The reason KFD does not want to go to that type of a response is to keep their numbers up. They love to talk about how the respond to 3-5 thousand calls a year. The real question is, did they really need too? Kind of doubt it.