The Uhrichsville Fire Department is preparing to field a greater share of the city's EMS calls after Smith Ambulance announced it would no longer be providing backup for its Twin City squad. (Uhrichsville Firefighters IAFF Local 4265)
Uhrichsville, Ohio - The Uhrichsville Fire Department is stepping up to make sure residents continue to have access to around-the-clock emergency medical services as Smith Ambulance scales back its Twin Cities operation.
Smith recently sent letters to Uhrichsville, Dennison and several neighboring townships informing them that the company would no longer be providing backup when its Twin City squad is out on a call.
Uhrichsville Mayor Rick Dorland says the city’s ambulance committee met with company officials earlier this month so they knew this was a possibility. They just didn’t know that it was going to happen so quickly.
"We assumed that it would be at the end of this current contract, but the current contract we currently have states right in there ‘if available,’ so it wasn’t guaranteed. It was if available," he explains.
Dorland says council just authorized the purchase of a $170,000 advanced life support ambulance to replace the used one the department has been using since 2016, so he says equipment won’t be an issue. He says their biggest burden will be the cost staffing for 24/7 EMS coverage.
"Well, the main strain is the overtime costs, but we don’t anticipate being super, super busy. Here in the last couple years, any costs associated with EMS calls, we’ve been taking it out of the EMS fund so it’s not taking it out of the general fund, so that helps out quite a bit," he says.
Smith Ambulance owner Bob Smith says this was not an easy decision, but he says they can’t just afford to sustain the current level of service they had been providing to the area.
"To maintain that backup service has gotten so costly that we simply can’t do it," he says. "The revenues and subsidies we get from the region is barely enough to cover the ambulance that’s stationed down here 24 hours"
Smith says they will do their best to keep to keep the Twin City available as much as possible to handle calls through the end of the current contract. But he says they won’t be able to continue beyond that unless they can negotiate for a higher subsidy.
"That partnership would mean sitting down and talking real numbers, not coming in every three years and being told how much you’re going to be paid to continue at the level of service," he says.
Dorland says council will weigh this against the cost of having the fire department respond to EMS calls to decide whether they should sign a new contract or take over as the city’s primary EMS provider.
STACEY CARMANY, TUSCO TV