November 27, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria to limit Fire Dept.’s emergency responses

ELYRIA — The city plans to scale back the number of emergency calls Elyria firefighters respond to in an effort to save money and wear and tear on city fire trucks.
Mayor Holly Brinda explained the need to limit the city’s first responder program in an open letter she penned to residents explaining her negotiation plans with LifeCare Ambulance Inc., which has provided service in the city for years.
The letter was written in response to backlash directed at the mayor for what many see as an attack on a private company and her attempts to find an alternative source of funding for the Fire Department, which is in jeopardy of losing 23 firefighters when a federal grant runs out in late 2014 or early 2015.
City Council has entered into the debate by unanimously adopting a resolution in support of LifeCare and discouraging Brinda from doing anything that would be perceived as trying to take work from LifeCare in favor of the Fire Department.
Brinda contends she is just trying to update a 17-year-old contract while ensuring residents are getting the best emergency medical service.
“I have never stated my intent is for the Fire Department to take over EMS from LifeCare,” she wrote. “I do not have enough data to make that determination. … While I agreed with the (state) Auditor in March that the city should at least explore the costs and benefits of all four options outlined in the audit, my administration has only explored the re-negotiation or re-bidding option because Elyria City Council has said it will not approve fire-based EMS.”
And now it seems as if the Fire Department will be involved in even fewer EMS calls.
Brinda said the cost to the city to have paramedic firefighters respond to emergency calls is approximately $200,000.
“A total of 70 percent of the Fire Department’s workload is for first responder calls and to assist LifeCare Ambulance,” she said. “Given the current economic conditions, the city can no longer afford to respond to the majority of these first responder calls in costly fire trucks that consume large quantities of fuel and depreciate with each trip, not to mention the cost of medical supplies.”
A timetable for when the department will scale back service was not provided.
Fire Chief Rich Benton did not return a call for comment.
Brinda said the switch would be done only once the city is satisfied LifeCare can handle the workload.
“That’s why we have requested the amount of information we have from LifeCare as well as the same information from the Fire Department. We have some financial concerns facing the city and we have a commitment to reducing cost wherever we can while providing quality services,” she said.
Protocols will have to be developed to establish when the Fire Department will roll, but Brinda said it only will be for the most critical calls and when the firefighters’ expertise in rescue is needed.
LifeCare President Pete de la Porte said the switch will not hurt the city.
“We’ll be perfectly fine and we have the track record to prove it,” he said. “If you ask us, it’s a very good idea. The city does not need to spend the $200,000. They can spend that money somewhere else.”
De la Porte points back to the period between April 2009 and the middle of 2010 when layoffs and station closures forced the department to scale back service.
“For more than a year, we did all the first responding and nobody even noticed the Fire Department wasn’t there,” he said. “And, because there were no big trucks on the scene, our response times were even better. It was easier for us to approach scenes and get out of there.”
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.


  • DCTruckie

    Washington DC needs to take a lesson from Elyria. EMS has always been a problem for our department. The ems units were once staffed by civilians who operated under the umbrella of the fire department. 911 abuse in DC has always been out of control, so fire apparatus was routinely dispatched to wait for an overworked ambulance to become available. The fire department absorbed the majority of ems workers into the uniformed division, and the department expanded a disastrous program where paramedics were placed on fire apparatus and firefighter/emts staffed ambulances. This has done nothing but create problems for a city that has always struggled with the ambulance service. Firefighters are burned out riding ambulances that are constantly on the road, firetrucks are being run into the ground, and paramedics are not being utilized where they should be…ON AMBULANCES! This program is someone’s pet project that has become a sick joke. For some reason, the department has continued to dance around the subject instead of taking a common sense approach. Paramedics should be on anything but a firetruck, the basic transport units should be contracted out to a firm that can provide an adequate amount of ambulances with people who want to ride them. Its time to stop putting the burden of ambulance service on the backs of DC firefighters.

  • Mark B

    Elyria Fire Department has a Rescue Truck (Rescue 31). They refuse to use it because they claim there is no where to park it except at the closed fire station on broad street . This truck has sat for several years now and is probably fell into disrepair all because of the games that Elyria Fire Department continually play. There is no good reason to run a huge ladder truck to chase ambulances, if they had to transport someone what would they do strap them down to the hood of the truck? They could also use a different or personal vehicle to go shopping at apples 4 times a day , or here is a brilliant idea , bring you food stuff to work with you! The games played within this department is absolutely shameful, but they continue to get away with it. Make them use Rescue 31 to chase after the ambulance , only to get there or half way there and be informed they are not needed and to return to service.

  • givemeabreak1234

    I find it funny that she is pushing so hard to get EMS as part of the fire department ( who are you trying to save your boyfriend, a friend or family member) and now she says “A total of 70 percent of the Fire Department’s workload is for first responder calls and to assist LifeCare Ambulance,” she said. “Given the current economic conditions, the city can no longer afford to respond to the majority of these first responder calls in costly fire trucks that consume large quantities of fuel and depreciate with each trip, not to mention the cost of medical supplies.” if all you might save is $200,000 how where you paying for all the training, equipment, insurance, payroll and medical supplies?
    So here is the solution to not getting what she wants…the fire department will no longer be a first responder. Lets keep this in mind if you are not a first responder you will need to inform the state because when the cr@p hits the fan there will be no firefighters there! Also let the firefighters know they will lose their first responder pay and certification. I’m not sure what is behind Lorain and Elyria not backing Lifecare but I will say I am ashamed of our public service workers. I’m ashamed of our city official. Yes, Lorain is pulling the same deal no police response so if their drunk, abusive, on drugs or the police doesn’t wish to deal with the person they just hand it off to Lifecare with no help. On the other hand if the person is any of the things and Lifecare needs their help “Don’t call us”! LPD Shame on both of these cities. These medics get way less pay and benefits than firefighters and police. They are unappreciated and work hard to save lives. I certainly hope the owner of Lifecare returns the favor to both Lorain and Elyria.

  • Frank J.

    @disqus_ncvfbWy4cx:disqus you are a little off Mark B. First off, the Rescue Truck was taken out of service because of staffing and it is in great shape and ready to go at the Cedar Street Fire Station. In an effort to get a staffed Truck Company to fires the EFD placed equipment carried on the rescue truck on the Aerial. The whole purpose of first responder program is to get the fastest trained personnel on the scene from geographically placed fire stations. running one vehicle out of one fire station doesn’t serve that purpose too well.

    • Mark B

      More EFD BS , R31 was stopped being used when efd got a bad attitude when they didn’t get what they wanted in contract. If it is sitting at cedar st , would it not make more sense to put the stuff back in it and use it to chase ambulances , it will move faster than a huge aerial truck . Blow all the smoke that you want but the people of Elyria can see right through it and with every passing issue the taste in the tax payers mouth gets more bitter towards efd

  • Mark B

    I think it is time the Mayor and they city take another look at regionalizing our public services , both Police and Fire. Hand over dispatching to LC911 and Regionalize police and fire

  • JCW

    Just imagine if she had spent as much time and money on finding an alternative to the grant that is going away. Wait … she doesn’t have a personal stake in that, or didn’t when she wasn’t mayor. Now that she is, and beholden to outside influences who helped her get the position, she has her own $77,000 a year lapdog to try and hound a perfectly functional private business which she has been told (rather emphatically) to LEAVE ALONE.

    Next time, perhaps we should ask our mayoral candidates if they even KNOW the meaning of the word subterfuge, before they attempt it to use it so ham-handedly in public. Personally, I’m waiting for her to address the numerous OTHER issues which are currently plaguing our city. Then again, maybe she doesn’t have any relatives or buddies with relatives who stand to lose in those issues. Didn’t someone mention a staff member of hers with a relative on … you guessed it .. the EFD? Yep … that’s subterfuge at its worst.

    This is gonna be one long … and embarrassing … year for Elyria if she is allowed to continue these rather juvenile public posturing antics.

  • AShame.

    Lifecare ambulance employees are over worked and underpaid. Not only are they answering 911 calls they are doing private transports. They don’t get rest and work over 48 hours straight at times. All their ambulances come from one station and their response times are slower than the fire dept. Every fire department should run EMS there is money to be made. Don’t listen to Herbs childish BS, if there wasn’t how could he have paid off city council? and why would a private business do it? To stop a mayor from finding ways to maintain staffing and bring money into its fire department is wrong. For city council to blindly say don’t look into it is an injustice to every citizen in Elyria. Trust me, I want a fire truck dispatched with a Lifecare ambulance if I am in trouble. Citizens need to pull their heads out of the sand and not comment on stuff they know nothing about, and hold city council accountable for their actions.

    • JCW

      Perhaps making blanket statements is better? Give me a break. I smell disgruntled ex-employee all over this post. To accuse someone of payoffs while turning a blind eye to blatant politics and cronyism … classic! And I do believe even the lady herself said that LifeCare is cooperating. As for “48 hours straight” … yeah, riiiiiiiiiight. Also, last time I checked their website, they have multiple stations, not just one.

      Next time you shoot for a smear, do your research. Then again, you are supporting a cause (being the major) that doesn’t believe doing their job either. Way to go!

      • AShame.

        Never worked there, but trust me ask any employee if people work days in a row. My research is correct. Yes they have station in Lorain and in Elyria. 1 each. also one in Amherst.

        • Mark B

          1 station on abbe rd and another one on west ave . Can you count to 2

          • AShame.

            The abbe rd admin building houses wheel chair vans, if you want to call that a station? but I’d be pissed if I called an ambulance and got a wheelchair van. JCW, you got me on the Herb, Pete thing I just assumed I was reading every other article on this. Whoops. A medic at lifecare starts at 12 dollars if I am not mistaken… So add 20+ more people on government aid they will probably qualify.

          • JCW

            I’m pretty sure that LifeCare can suss out a wheelchair call from an emergency. 20+ years of experience on that can’t be wrong. ;)

            And I won’t deny that there would be a pay cut to sign on, at least I would think so. However, in the absence of any work, must needs as the devil drives, ya know? Something is better than nothing, and at least LifeCare has the capacity to train and further the education of existing medics in house.

            And I apologize if my remarks to you have seemed brisk. I just have little tolerance for those (not you, but the mayor) who complicate private business operations in the auspice of doing their public duty for the sake of polarized personal agendas. How it continues to fester is beyond me and I would not be surprised if she finds herself on the business end of an invitation to leave office early, courtesy of the voters and their representatives that she chooses to ignore.

          • Mark B

            Not much different than calling a ambulance and getting a aerial truck

          • AShame.

            Really, because highly trained EMT’s and Paramedics that ride on that truck are not helpful when your loved one is having a heart attack and in full arrest? Stick to your guns, but I will stick with the highly trained firefighters getting to me first, then we can all wait together for an ambulance.

          • JCW

            While reducing our protection in the incident of … oh, I don’t know .. a FIRE, maybe? No one’s knocking the training of the EFD. Stay on point.

            What they -are- knocking is the rather shady (pun definitely intended) method by which Mdme. Mayor is overzealously pursuing LifeCare, while blithely ignoring everything that the city needs to have done. Several audits, public opinion, professional mandate … none of these matter to her, and that -should- matter to you. Then again, maybe you can wait on the next mayor to give you a stark reminder of what exactly you gave away for the sake of pride.
            Your voice.

        • JCW

          There’s also one in Avon. Amazing how one became four.

          It’s also not uncommon for EMS or firefighters to work multiple days in a row. What is uncommon is to be constantly moving or working nonstop, which is what you insinuate.

          Also, if it’s not personal, why call out Herb de la Porte by name, when he isn’t even mentioned in the article? You might answer that you meant Peter, but that begs to answer why you’re holding an unnamed party accountable … I get those names confused, too. *rolls eyes* Go back and read my blurb on subterfuge … not a smooth move there. However, let’s define irony for a second:
          - 20+ jobs are being lost due to what could be construed as administrative incompetence (lack of a contingency plan -is- incompetence, no matter how you cut it).
          - Per their website, LifeCare is hiring for all levels of medics. Unlike the mayor, they aren’t discriminating based on political affiliation or under-the-table dealing.
          Anyone else see a natural landing place for medics who may be out of a job soon? Sounds like a win-win to me. Both sides get a positive ending.
          But what fun is a witch hunt if the witch gets nothing? ;)

  • Mark B

    Last night or early this morning there was a perfect example of why EFD should not be doing ambulance runs. at 4:40 am EPD called for the fire department at merchants alley and Kerstetter Way, a few minutes go buy and you hear a sleepy voice from EFD on the radio sounding like they had just woken up from a deep sleep call to the 911 dispatch and ask her why they were being dispatched, 911 had to call EPD back and ask , EPD responded that they had called for the fire department because there was a fire with flames 15 feet tall. The officer even chuckled making the comment like why else would you call the fire department.

    With all of the calling back and forth time is ticking by, if EFD was toned out they should respond , not call 911 back and question the nature of the call. Now what if this had been a Heart Attack, Stroke or some other Serious time sensitive life threating emergency and EFD is just waking up and questioning why they were called to respond. Is this the type of Emergency medical service you want for you Family, wife or kids ? This is almost as bad as the time EPD had to actually go to the Fire Station and wake EFD up for a call.
    This is why we need to keep a professional ambulance service that is there when we need them, and EFD is not that service .

    • Frank J.

      Boy Mark, listening to the scanner at 0440 hours? Nice that you are a fan of emergency services, Impressive! But not the whole story of course, the call was not clear to EFD as to “what was on fire” the company was out the door quickly and the person on the radio while probably in bed when alarm sounded is a cool cucumber who sounds the same no matter what the hour.. Guess what Mark FD and Medics work 24 hours. The call was for an outside fire near a building. FD wanted to clarify what was on fire in case the response needed upgraded.
      Who cares what you think or try to put out as facts. The FD will be there no matter what or why you call will be there quick and what kills you is we do it no matter the circumstance or whether the person hates us or loves us.

      • JCW

        Oh, my … being an early bird is worthy of scorn … what a small community you must live in. Then again, how did you know what actually happened? Either you were there or you hunted down the info … kinda negates that whole ‘you’re a geek for knowing’ angle you were working there. ;)

        Seriously, if you don’t care, then why refute it at all? I applaud defending those who work to keep us safe and, as a former military firefighter myself, I have a soft spot for that service. That being said, he only emphasized that EFD needs help in the ambulance area, not that they are inadequate firefighters.

        Though I notice you said absolutely nothing about EPD having to wake the guys up. Curious about that one myself … got some scoop on that?

        If you want to debate, go for it. People learn from intelligent debate. Otherwise, the playground is to the right.

      • K.P.

        Audits and studies are useful but the city should look at other cities that have faced the same problem. Mansfield faced the same issue 8 years ago. A once thriving industrial town of 56,000 that showed the exact same issue faced here. Mansfield FD responded an ALS engine to all critical medical emergencies. The city had three for profit ambulance services which alternated responding to 911 calls. With little tax revenue coming into the dying city a decision was made that the FD will transport to the hospital and the patient’s insurance would be soft billed. Changes in reimbursement with Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance carriers were seen but it must be realized that revenue can me made through proper documentation and billing procedures. Mansfield FD’s operating budget from the city account decreased and showed a self sufficient type of department. The decision was made that if the city employed paramedics they were going to be utilized to the fullest extent. Elyria FD have paramedics BUT they treat under basic life support protocols which I feel is wrong. If the city truly wants what is best for its citizens the fire department employees will render care appropriate to their state certification level regardless of the transport issue at hand. EMT’s and paramedic’s treat signs and symptoms but do not diagnose in the field. Early treatment of a myocardial infarction and knowing when to give nitroglycerin compared to IV fluid only pre hospital and decreasing the time from ER bed to cath lab table is what effects survivability statistics. I am not here to pick sides or judge LifeCare and the EFD. If you have the resources you utilize them to the fullest, save lives and quit worrying about the almighty dollar.

        • JCW

          An excellent post. I disagree on part of it, though.

          The dollar here was not a worry until the grant became an issue. We have seen little to no evidence of any kind of remedial pursuit with regards to finding alternative funding, and the stench of union politics is very thick with this mayor. Again, no one (especially me) is knocking the level of competence or persistence of the the EFD, and I concur that the bottom line is saving the lives of those who depend on them.

          Rather, the larger issue is the idea of government rather aggressively pursuing, with prejudice, a publicly supported, city-endorsed, and financially contributive privately owned company for the sake of assuaging a limited constituency who helped her to win the office in the first place.

        • ASHAME2

          You are absolutely right! Fire departments can make money with EMS billing and have. They can afford to run ambulances and have more staffing for the fires at the same time. Almost every other community around Elyria does this. I see it first hand. The mayor wants to bring EMS dollars to the city and in turn will lower what the city has to contribute to the fire department while the fire department can increase the level of service. EFD wanted to become ALS, but guess who went to City Council and threw a fit?!?! LifeCare!!!! Shouldn’t they be more concerned with the over all good and not adding more toys to their garage? The fire service without EMS is becoming a dying breed. EMS soft billing needs to be added to help departments be more self-sufficient in these dire times. Again, and council that puts a blanket “NO” out there should be question. We should always be looking to do things better and providing the best pre-hospital care to everyone.

          • JCW

            Hmm, a service which is already being reasonably and reliably offered by a private company is threatened with government takeover, and it’s suddenly wrong for them to complain. Do I even -need- to point out the flaw in that?

            As to toys, look to your own statement. To increase staffing and cover more, they … would … need … more toys in the garage. I really need to just link my subterfuge argument in every post. I suppose increasing driver accountability, improving hospital reporting, and ensuring proper medical information delivery are just ‘toys’, too?
            I do sympathize with the EFD’s plight, but not at the expense of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Target private companies to cover governmental mistakes? Are we really at that point?

          • Mark B

            The only reason EFD would want to do ems is so they can cry and scream for more money every union contract , at the expense of the taxpayer. When someone on life care gets a raise , our taxes dont increase. Its has nothing to do with what is best for the people of elyria , it is just how EFD can put more money in their pockets.

    • Mark

      the dispatch call should always state the nature of the emergency. You don’t launch the entire barn for an EMS call, just as you don’t launch only the rescue vehicle for a structure fire. Shame on whoever dropped the comm link ball on that one, being it the police for not stating, the dispatcher for not asking or not conveying.

      • Herb….

        Mark don’t bring logic to this fight. People with no Fire or EMS experience should be the ones making this call. I am guessing they have never waited 10+ minutes for lifecare tho. Or had a lifecare medic clear visual C-Spine in the field after a roll over.

        • K.P.

          I wish not to bring endorsements or union statements to topic. I have witnessed the two attempt to work together and have heard snide remarks, seen cold looks and viewed just plain animosity on BOTH parts. I myself do not agree with a $77,000 position recently filled in the city of Elyria. The same animosity can & has been seen in the city of Cleveland between its EMS department and fire service. It has presented many years and is still ongoing. If you have an opportunity to get 12 lead monitors/defibrillators free with federal grant money you take advantage of it and work at obtaining protocols to match your employees’ certifications. I don’t care who transports myself or family to the hospital but I want every paramedic regardless of who they work for to be implemented to the fullest extent. Yes, I do work full time in this occupation but have never experienced this behavior from upper brass or the providers themselves.