(Posted July 16, 2018)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
London city council passed legislation on July 5 that will essentially give voters the power to decide whether the city secedes from the Madison County Emergency Medical District and provides its own emergency medical services through the fire department.
A resolution to place a 2-mill levy on the Nov. 6 election ballot passed 5-2 with council members Henry Comer and Josh Peters casting the “no” votes. The deadline to place issues on the fall ballot is Aug. 8. If passed, the levy would fund the city-run emergency medical services.
Council passed a second resolution calling for non-collection of the city’s 3-mill levy for the Emergency Medical District (EMD) if the 2-mill levy passes. The vote was 5-2 with Comer and Peters casting the “no” votes.
Prior to the votes, Dr. James Kaehr, county coroner and medical director for Madison Public Health, told council he believes the proposed secession would result in degraded services to city residents.
“The concerns I have are not issues of competence, professionalism or dedication on the part of the London Fire Department,” he said.
Kaehr’s concerns have to do with the number of paramedics the fire department would have available to respond to medical emergencies and their levels of expertise and experience compared to what the EMD has on hand. He presented information provided by the Madison County Sheriff’s Office 911 coordinator showing that in 2017, the EMD reported on-scene status on over 4,000 occasions.
“It is this level of experience which is so vital to patient outcome and which (the EMD) maintains because it is their only job,” he stated in information presented to council.
In a statement distributed to the media, Mayor Patrick Closser said the fire department plans to hire three to six full-time paramedics and several part-time employees, allowing for 10 staff members on each shift. Council President Joe Russell said Kaehr’s comments about lack of experience didn’t take into account how much experience the new hires would have.
Kaehr also expressed concern about the fire department’s plan for ambulances.
The EMD has four ambulances. The city plans to have three. Kaehr presented data that shows that the EMD’s fourth ambulance was dispatched to the city 58 times in 2017. In such cases, city-run emergency medical services would have to rely on mutual aid from another department outside of the city, he said.
Fire Chief Todd Eades said four simultaneous calls are rare. He said his plan would be to have two transport vehicles with a third in reserve. He also said one of the fire engines could be equipped and staffed to respond to medical emergencies. He said the system he is proposing is used successfully by other departments.
As was the case at the previous council meeting, several individuals addressed council about the need for a meeting or mediation between Eades and EMD Chief Robert Olwin. Carla Blazier, a trainer for the EMD, said the problem is a lack of communication between the EMD and the fire department. She suggested the formation of a committee to hash out a working relationship between the two entities. Kaehr contacted Sheriff Jim Sabin during the meeting and reported that Sabin would be willing to mediate a meeting between the two chiefs.
Before making a motion to adopt the legislation, council member Rex Castle said he had seen no efforts made toward reconciliation between the two entities since the secession was first proposed in mid-May. He said if the issues could be resolved in time, council could rescind their vote on the legislation.
Council’s next regular meeting is at 6:30 p.m. July 19 at 6 E. Second St.