Northwood City Council at a meeting last week approved a proposal recommended by Mayor Mark Stoner, Fire Chief Joel Whitmore, and Administrator Dennis Recker that will provide full-time Basic Life Support (BLS) for residents.
“This plan will give the city the biggest bang for the buck,” said Whitmore at a Nov. 10 committee of the whole meeting, where it was discussed by council. “It will provide the best patient care to the citizens.”
Currently, the city has two people who are at least EMTs providing BLS weekdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., according to Recker.
“We will provide 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Basic Life Support services,” Recker said of the new coverage.
“It basically calls for augmenting what we’re currently doing on a full-time, seven days per week basis, which means there will be two people who are a paramedic or EMT, or at least a minimum of two EMTs, who are available. So about one-third of the time, based on our current staffing, we would provide Advanced Life Support (ALS), then the remaining two-thirds of the time, we would be providing BLS,” said Recker.
The increased annual cost to the city is $139,222, for a total of $249,844 to provide round the clock coverage, said Recker. The funds are earmarked in next year’s budget.
The boosted coverage, according to Whitmore, was prompted by an incident that was first reported in The Press in which a resident called 9-1-1 three times on March 3 for her husband who was having breathing problems. Tim Mix, 67, of Parc Rue, had stopped breathing by the time help arrived 28 minutes later from a Northwood rescue squad manned by an EMT. Medic 50, a rescue squad staffed by paramedics in Lake Township, which has a mutual aid agreement with Northwood, transported Mix to Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, where he was removed from life support two days later. He had suffered brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen. Ellen Mix, Tim’s widow, has filed a lawsuit against city officials.
After the incident, the city reinstated two firefighter/EMTs to provide BLS from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., a shift that had been cut as a result of the recession.
“Having two people working together on the ambulance, we can accomplish much more and do a lot more tasks around the station and the city. And when they’re operating on EMS runs, they can provide much better care. Having just one person arrive by themselves, their hands are tied, there’s not a lot they can do to provide advanced care to the citizens,” said Whitmore.
Lower response times
Full EMS coverage will also decrease the average response times of emergency service, said Whitmore.
At Fire Station 2, the average response time is about 13 minutes, and at Fire Station 1, it’s about eight minutes, he said.
“We’ll get down to roughly five minutes, with no more than eight minutes. We generally encourage them to be out the door in one to two minutes. That’s pretty much the national standard,” said Whitmore.
Councilman Dave Gallaher asked Whitmore how far back Fire Station No. 2 has had an average response time of 13 minutes.
“These were from the beginning of the year,” said Whitmore.
Gallaher asked what the average response time was a few years ago before the city made deep budget cuts.
Whitmore, who was just recently appointed fire chief, said he did not know.
Whitmore said he could find the information and get back to Gallaher.
“The reason I’m wondering is, I can’t believe we’ve had basically a tepid response time all this time and there hasn’t been anything done about it,” said Gallaher.
“I’m pretty positive that [response times] were extended to get an ambulance on the scene,” said Whitmore. “That does not include having the 800 on the scene, which is only one person with the inability to transport. This year, we’ve had six incidents where the 800 arrived on the scene and we had to call for mutual aid for that initial call for service because we didn’t have the personnel. We had to call either Rossford or Lake Township to cover us.”
There are currently 17 firefighters in Fire Station 2, and 22 firefighters in Fire Station 1, said Whitmore.
The increased BLS falls short of Stoner’s call at a meeting last summer for full-time ALS, which would have guaranteed the response of at least one paramedic. Stoner said last month that he did not have support on council for his plan, which some had considered cost prohibitive. Still, Stoner said providing increased BLS is the first step towards ALS in the future.