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Levy would be a start to ambulance service in Poland

October 3, 2018
J.T. Whitehouse , The Town Crier

Poland Village and Township voters will be facing a 1 mill levy on the November ballot for the Western Reserve Joint Fire District. The levy is the first step of providing Poland residents with emergency medical transport.

"[Ambulance] providers are cutting back on personnel," said Western Reserve Joint Fire District (WRJFD) Chief David "Chip" Comstock. "If you are an ambulance company owner, how many employees do you need to stay profitable."

He said private ambulance companies don't hire more people than they feel they need to stay in the black. He said the last thing any of them wants is to have personnel doing nothing while waiting on a call. While from a business aspect it makes sense, from the patient aspect, it is alarming.

Comstock said twice, earlier this year, his department was faced with a cardiac arrest and no ambulance available. Springfield had to be called and the Poland emergency responders had to perform CPR until that ambulance arrived. It made for a long session of CPR that seemed like hours.

Poland is not alone in dealing with the low number of private ambulances available. The problem is affected many communities and the trend is to move to fire department ambulance service.

Comstock said the ultimate goal of the WRJFD is to provide it as well, but it would require phases to work it in. The first phase is to purchase and house two ambulances. The 1 mill would provide for that progress.

"The 1 mill levy is a short-term stop-gap measure to provide back-up medical service to our residents," Comstock said.

He said last year, the district responded to 976 calls of which the trend is close to 70 percent requiring emergency medical services. He added the district is on track to exceed the 1,000 call mark this year, meaning more need for medical transportation.

The WRJFD board of directors reviewed the numbers and came up with a long and short term plan. The short term plan is to get set up with two ambulances in the district.

"We have room at Station 92 by the high school, but no room at Stations 91 in the Village and 93 on North Hill.

"The first thing we would do with the [levy] funds is to add room at the North Hill Station," Comstock said. "Then we will have an ambulance on each side of the river."

The Ambulances will be operated by volunteers in the WRJFD, of which most are either emergency medical technicians (EMT) or paramedics. An ambulance can run with EMTs.

Comstock said if the district has the ambulances, the chances are better for a fast response and transport. He said under phase one, the volunteer staff could take the ambulance out on a medical call, meaning the department would be backing up private ambulance companies.

The long term plan would be to provide for a part time staff of four to man a new central fire station near the intersection of U.S. 224 and Struthers Road, which is the center of the township. The new station could be built with sleeping quarters for the ambulance staff. That ultimate goal would likely require an additional 2 mills, but Comstock said that is down the road. For now the focus is on getting the two vehicles and housing them.

One big plus for running a fire department ambulance service is the cost for taxpayers. Comstock said if the fire department transports a patient in the department's ambulance, a bill would be sent out to the insurance company and the resident. The insurance company would pay its contracted share, then the taxpayers share would be forgiven. Comstock said the taxpayer has already paid for the service when they pass the levy, therefore there would be no charge to the taxpayer.

Comstock said he hopes to have some public town hall meetings to discuss ambulance service and the 1 mill levy with taxpayers. As of now, nothing has been planned.



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