The Alliance Fire Department picked up a used ambulance a while ago as a donation from a benefactor.

But it’s only been recently that city firefighters had the authority to put the vehicle to full use transporting patients to the hospital. City Council in May passed an ordinance approving the change.

The city’s prime ambulance service provider is Emergency Medical Transport, or EMT, a private ambulance service. But if EMT does not have an ambulance available during an emergency, the city Fire Department can fill the need.

“When they show up for first response, and there is not another ambulance available, it allows them to transport,” city Safety-Service Director Michael Dreger said. “When they show up for first response, and there is not another ambulance available, it allows them to transport.”

It’s a major step for the Fire Department, which got its medical emergency first-response authority in 2006. Emergency medical technicians on the Fire Department would respond to medical emergencies but could only provide limited treatment on site and had to wait for another service provider such as EMT for transportation.

“They started that with a firetruck,” Dreger said. “After a period of time, they were able to convert a van. They couldn’t drive a person two blocks to the hospital. You have to have credentials from the state to run an ambulance. We are working on (obtaining) them. There are some certifications we will have to get. There are some fees. We are estimating it will be between $3,000 to $4,000 for that. There is some equipment that we will have to purchase and put on the ambulance.”

 

Targeting August

Fire Chief Jason Hunt estimates his department should be fully ready to provide ambulance transport service by August. The ambulance will be categorized as basic life support. The ambulances of the sole provider, EMT, are categorized as advanced life support. With that status, there are paramedics on board and the vehicle carries medication and drugs a paramedic is licensed to administer.

“In the event we have to transport, every effort will be made to take them to Alliance (Community Hospital),” Hunt said.

“We are working in concert with the hospital to make sure the patient gets where they need to go. I am pleased that our personnel in the field that are with the patient are in a better position to serve the patient if a private ambulance isn’t available. This is a step for us. That is what we are focused on is being able to transport in event there is no private ambulance available.”

The Fire Department has 30 members.

 

Councilman has questions

While Dreger and Hunt are satisfied with launching the ambulance transport program, one of the seven members of City Council, Brian Simeone, voted against its inception.

“I am for the program,” Simeone, D-at large, said. “I think it was rushed. I have questions that they have not answered.”

One concern Simeone expressed involves a severe injury case. Would the Alliance Fire Department ambulance transport the patient to the Canton facilities, Aultman Hospital or Mercy Medical Center, because they are better equipped to treat trauma injuries?

“You could have a certain situation,” Dreger said. “The captain on the ship has to make a decision. We are not going to take away reasonable field decisions. This process started about two years ago. I just find it amazing that anyone could be against it. If we have to do a lot of transport, it possibly means the sole provider is not living up to their contract.”

Another of the councilman’s concerns is the ordinance gives the city safety-service director authority to halt the ambulance transport program.

“I have a problem with that,” Simeone said. “It gives him control if he wants to pull the plug on it. It should be up to the fire chief.”

The ordinance was introduced by Councilman L. Frank Minear, R-3.

“The reason is we feel it is our job to protect our citizens and people that are visiting Alliance,” said Minear, who chairs the council Fire and Safety Committee. “If you don’t have an ambulance available, who would want a person to suffer? Why put someone in jeopardy of not getting medical attention?”

Reach Malcolm at 330-580-8305 or malcolm.hall@cantonrep.com

On Twitter: mhallREP