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Could Boardman have ambulance service soon?

January 22, 2020
J.T. Whitehouse , The Town Crier

Last November, the results of an exploratory committee were released in a special township meeting. The numbers pointed to establishing an ambulance service in the Boardman Fire Dept., but that would come at a cost.

This year, trustees will be considering the move and seeking public input. In the meantime, Boardman Fire Chief Mark Pitzer is continuing to review data and present findings regarding such a move.

"We have a need," he said. "We know what it will take to run [ambulance service]. It is up to the trustees."

He said the problems with ambulance service in the area are in the limited number of private ambulance companies and the number of available ambulances.

In Boardman, the township has an agreement with Lane's to provide two ambulances. While the service has good response times, there are times when delays have happened.

Pitzer said if there is situation requiring multiple ambulance in nearby Austintown, for example, Lanes may have to send one of the Boardman vehicles to Austintown and move the second one to the Cornersburg area to cover both townships for a short time. If a call comes in from the southeast section of Boardman, it will take time to respond. Often it is the Boardman rescue crews from the Fire Department that arrive first and must keep the victim alive while awaiting the ambulance.

"We had a cardiac arrest during last year's St. Patrick's Day Parade," Pitzer said. "We (the fire department) were there in one minute. We had to wait 20 minutes for the ambulance to arrive."

As for how Boardman stacks up against other communities, Pitzer said the research shows the top 30 largest townships in Ohio all operate with fire service ambulances except Boardman.

"We are the only one of the top 30 without our own ambulances," Pitzer said.

The plan before trustees calls for the township to have an ambulance working out of each fire station and a fourth one as a back up. The latest figures show the service would generate between $900,000 to $1 million a year, which would fall about $700,000 short of the cost to provide the service.

To answer if the township could move ahead with just one or two ambulances, Pitzer said the numbers show three to be the most efficient service.

"There are 92 times a month when we have two medical calls at the same time, and 30 times a month that we have three medical calls at the same time," he said.

That number could come from the population increase in a 24 hour period. He said at night Boardman has a population around 40,000, but when the stores, mall and plaza open up during the day, the number of people in Boardman swells to over 100,000, which means a higher call volume.

To begin such a service would obviously require more tax money, but the amount a Boardman resident would pay might be a savings if the service were ever used.

The Boardman Fire Ambulances would operate similar to neighboring Canfield. When the ambulance responds and transports a Boardman resident, that resident would be soft billed. In other words, the insurance company would be billed. Whatever the company paid would be accepted and whatever was not covered would be written off.

Pitzer added that could include a mutual aid call. He gave the example that all three Boardman ambulances were on calls and a fourth was needed near the Mill Creek Park area. A mutual aid agreement with Canfield could see their ambulance respond. If they are responding on the mutual aid agreement, then they too would only soft bill the Boardman resident.

Pitzer said the committee has done a good job and looking at all the details of operating a fire department ambulance service.

"I am 100 percent confident in our ability to provide emergency medical service to our community," he said. "It is what Boardman deserves."

The service will likely be an important topic for trustees over the coming months.



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