Townships want to know why ending duplication of EMS services and contracting with the county to fund communities to be sole first responders won’t work.
“Are we saying we’re wanting what is best practices?” said Chief Mike Schuiling, of Delaware County EMS. “We have almost 45 years of evidence to back up the system we have in place works exceedingly well.”
In earlier reports by The Gazette, Genoa Township Trustee Rick Carfagna said, “What we are essentially proposing is that the county would contract with our communities and let our communities be the sole first-responders for EMS in our communities.”
After the work a session on May 16 with county commissioners, Dale Fling, Harlem Township fire chief, said: “We’re looking to visit the funding mechanism of EMS. We just feel there is a disparity in the funding mechanism.”
According to Schuiling, county EMS is one of several departments funded from the county general fund. “There is no EMS tax,” Schuiling said talking about the 0.5 percent sales tax established by commissioners in 1971. “Its not just EMS, because there are other departments that can be significantly impacted by this, namely the Sheriff’s department can be significantly impacted.
“It’s more about how our tax dollars are being spent in this county,” Schuiling said.
According to Schuiling, just under a $1 million dollars is paid to Delaware City and Liberty Township as partners in EMS services.
County EMS in 43 years has grown into 10 fully staffed stations, according to Schuiling. “The board of commissioners, in 1971 with great forethought, created a sustainable model that grows and contracts should the need arise,” Schuiling said.
Schuiling sees the townships as the ones duplicating services through non-sustainable funding. “I would say duplication has created the unwise and significant abuse of tax dollars,” he said. “The reality is they have created a non-sustainable funding source.”
“Is this going to create a long-term solution or a short-term solution for these fire departments in these townships?” Schuiling said.
The Gazette also reported Carfagna had proposed the resources of the county EMS could be moved to other locations in the county. “Those resources in our communities could be relocated elsewhere in the county that are under served. In lieu of using those resources, the townships would receive a reimbursement,” he said.
“Currently part of the proposal from the fire departments is to shut down stations 9, 7 and 3 and relocate them in areas throughout the county where they can be quote, unquote better utilized,” Schuiling said.
According to Schuiling, by relocating county resources they “would not be better utilized” in other areas, they could not be sustained. “It’s not to say that those areas couldn’t benefit from having another ambulances in those areas, I feel that it would not be financially responsible,” he said.
Schuiling said paramedics also train as fire fighters. “When they’re not running as paramedics, let’s put them on the engines,” he said.
Schuiling said when this happens it leaves an ambulance unmanned if a call comes in for medical help. “My question is how can you do that to your citizens?” he said.
Schuiling sees keeping the DCEMS “unimpeded” and “unencumbered” by not being a fire and rescue service offers the best scenario. “If someone is injured we’re going to show up and take them to the most appropriate hospital and give them the best care we can,” Schuiling said. “It that simple.”
“It’s one of those perspectives of fire versus EMS,” Schuiling said. “It’s a true philosophical difference.”
Schuiling said Commissioner Benton is doing modeling right now on the county EMS versus the Township fire model.
“It’s very distinctive and clear it cost x-amount of dollars to do this and x-amount of dollars to this,” Schuiling said. “Which is going to be better A or B?”
“As the chief of this department and this county, I will do everything I can to not compromise the service of Delaware County EMS,” Schuiling said. “I’m confident that when the numbers come back from everybody it will be very clear on what is more efficient and what is most cost-effective.”
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.