Study: Service would not pay
The township uses a rotation of ambulance companies.
By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
BOARDMAN -- Communities that provide ambulance service either use part-time personnel to run them or have the service funded mostly by tax levies.
That was a conclusion in a study conducted by Fire Chief James Dorman regarding the feasibility of an ambulance service provided by the township fire department.
Dorman spoke with fire chiefs in Howland, Liberty and Brookfield as well as Miami and Plain townships near Cincinnati and North Canton, respectively.
In February, Trustee Kathy Miller asked Dorman to conduct the study.
"I just thought that if it was feasible and it could pay for itself, it would better meet the needs of the community," she said.
From Dorman's study, that appears unlikely.
He found that such a service would require additional equipment and additional personnel.
While many firefighters have paramedic training, Miller said, they're limited in what they can do to treat a patient.
Firefighters are first responders -- meaning they administer first aid, including performing CPR and use automatic external defibrillators when necessary to stabilize patients. First responder is a state level of certification.
When an ambulance arrives, paramedics take over and are able to provide another level of care and transport to a hospital.
The township uses a rotation of three ambulance companies. The rotation aligns with firefighters' 24-hour shifts. There is no cost to the township.
Each of the communities Dorman investigated offer a thriving ambulance based on one of two principles, the chief said in his report.
"Either they are able to afford the manpower because they are supported by part-time personnel who are not receiving fringe benefits, or they are primarily funded by tax levies," Dorman wrote.
About 1,600 patients from Boardman are sent to area hospitals by ambulance annually. Based on data from the other five fire chiefs, that would mean the township would need at least three ambulances.
Fewer ambulances would mean some of the ambulance trips would have to be picked up by back-up agencies, the chief wrote.
If the township would try the service using full-time firefighters who are cross-trained as paramedics and provide a separate service, Dorman estimated it would take 18 to 21 people.
"The estimated [annual] income of approximately $500,000 would support only six firefighters, which would then in turn only provide enough personnel for one ambulance," Dorman's study concluded.
The department employs 43 full-time members. There are 12 volunteer firefighters who work with the department.
Fees not enough
Fees collected by one ambulance wouldn't support the salary and fringe benefits of the six firefighters needed to man it.
"Start-up costs could easily surpass $500,000, not including the overtime and tuition costs to cross train personnel as paramedics," the study concluded.
The income from the ambulance would have to be used to pay for the equipment and vehicles. The amount generated wouldn't be enough to pay the salaries of firefighters and the debt on equipment and vehicles.
"In other words, as a stand-alone service, an ambulance service cannot support itself nor provide added monies for the general fund," Dorman wrote.
Among alternatives are a service operated by a mix of full- and part-time personnel, a levy, an ambulance service operated separately, and seeking bids for all emergency medical responses to be provided by one company that would pay a fee to the township for the privilege of the exclusivity, the chief wrote.