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In late September 1998, the EMS Commission recommended that the fire department experiment with transporting patients to the hospital. With the recommendations and support of the committee, the EMS Commission and the firefighter local, on Oct. 15, 1998, the mayor gave his blessing for the fire department to begin a trial EMS transport on Dec. 1.
Under the new system, there would now be continuity of care, instead of the old system of transferring the patient from one crew to another.
Responding to the mayor's decision, Cuyahoga Falls Fire Chief Mark Snyder said, "We'll eliminate the one question from residents that has haunted me for years: Why don't you just take me?"
After learning of the mayor's decision, AMR Regional CEO Greg Lawton indicated that AMR would leave town after the fire department transport system became operational.
With the start date just around the corner, Snyder and his department had to make all the necessary preparations for a successful program. Apparently their hard work paid off. During the debate, opponents of a fire-based system had argued that the department would not have the personnel to transport, that EMS mutual aid would be necessary and that fire suppression would suffer. But, according to Snyder, all proved wrong. During the month-long trial period, the department never called for EMS mutual aid , and the number of personnel was not compromised during several fires. In the first month of operation, 270 patients were transported by the fire department and several fires were handled without complications. On Jan. 25, 1999, the City Council voted to authorize the fire department to start billing for transport services.
One year later, the report card is in. With an average response time of four minutes, the program has increased personnel from 80 to 84 and decreased time from dispatch to enroute to the hospital from 30 minutes to 19 minutes. Additionally, anticipated revenues will top $1 million for 1999.
Without question, the move to increase service levels to the citizens of Cuyahoga Falls has proven to be an unqualified success - thanks to the members of the Cuyahoga Falls Fire Department. A tip of the helmet to Snyder and the personnel in his department.
Gary Ludwig, MS, EMT-P, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is the chief paramedic for the St. Louis Fire Department and is the vice chairman of the EMS Executive Board for the International Association of Fire Chiefs. He has lectured nationally and internationally on fire-based EMS topics and operates The Ludwig Group, a consulting firm specializing in EMS and fire issues. He can be reached at GaryLudwig@aol.com.