06-01-2017 Hartford officials discuss forming joint committee to help Medic 1 improve local service;

Hartford officials discuss forming joint committee to help Medic 1 improve local service

By Nancy Albright

At a joint session of the City of Hartford and Hartford Township held on Wednesday, May 24, officials resumed discussions regarding the operation of Medic 1 Ambulance service in the Hartford area where they left off at the joint session held on March 7, 2017.

As several officials were quick to point out, they were not there to discuss retaining Medic 1 services, which Hartford has used since 1988. Rather, to hold an open conversation between the council, township, Medic 1 representatives, and the public in attendance regarding steps that can be taken to improve area emergency services.

Township Supervisor Ron Sefcik opened the discussion with concerns about what he considers to be a large discrepancy in charges for emergency services between Hartford and Watervliet during the 2016 fiscal year, where Medic 1 responded to over 650 calls.

One emergency vehicle is allocated to Hartford and the cost of that vehicle is shared with Watervliet Township. The total amount paid for one full-time ALS unit over a twelve month period was $561,629.10. Hartford’s share was $375,385.53 and the cost to Watervliet was $186,243.57, creating a differential of $189,141.96.

Medic 1 Board Chairman Pete Sinclair explained that the variance in cost may be due in part to the fact that Watervliet has a large number of wheelchair calls due to U.S. Renal Care Watervliet Dialysis. Medic 1 charges patients just $60 for roundtrip service per call. Medic 1 operations manager Bob Hale then stated that many drug-related calls come in from Hartford which incurs higher costs.

The financial discussion was tabled there.

Covert Fire Department weighs in

In a letter to Medic 1 dated May 23, 2017, Covert Fire Department Chief Doug Myers stated that, “Over the past year or so our agency has been increasingly requested by Medic 1 to take calls for the Hartford City and Township areas, and to go on standby. Although we pride ourselves in our relationships with outside organizations, this particular relationship seems to be heavily one-sided.”

Chief Myers went on to say that it is difficult to explain to his taxpayers why they are “continually left without coverage” and that the department is unwilling to come to the aid of a for-profit agency that “does not return the favor.” This causes problems for Covert, as well as Hartford that experiences 20-minute response times when Covert is in standby status because Medic 1 does not address the issue.

In conclusion, Chief Myers informed Medic 1 that they will no longer go on standby until an agreement with responding agencies is established that satisfies the taxpayers of both the Covert and Hartford communities.

Hartford Mayor Pro-Tem Rick Hall responded with, “We have a good mutual aid relationship with Covert and don’t want to jeopardize that.”

In response, Sinclair reiterated the dispatch protocol. Emergency vehicle operations are coordinated by Van Buren County Central Dispatch, which is operated by the County Sheriff’s Department in Paw Paw and functions as the county-wide hub for emergency fleet logistics. Medic 1 does not contact agencies directly to request backup. Central Dispatch is notified of requests and makes the decisions on how to best provide backup coverage to the entire service area.

Many members of the joint session voiced their concern that Chief Myers’ letter was written the day before the joint session was to take place and that there were no Covert representatives present at the meeting.

Joint committee may be the answer

Sefcik suggested forming a joint committee to meet on a quarterly or monthly basis that includes representatives from Hartford City and Township, the Hartford Fire Department, Watervliet Township and Medic 1, as a vehicle to set parameters to improve area ambulance service.

Township trustee John McClellan agreed and suggested a maximum of two representatives from each named entity. “The fewer people on the committee from each entity involved the more directly issues can be addressed. We don’t want to take minutes and waste hours. Residents come first. Service comes first. There is an undercurrent of feeling here that has nothing to do with the health and safety and well-being of our resi