WELLINGTON — A plan an administrator said will reduce response times for the South Lorain County Ambulance District instead will slash the paychecks of part-time employees and leave ambulance crews shorthanded, according to an affected employee.
Currently, the district is set up where one employee mans the station and when a call comes in, two employees come from home and then all three go out on the truck together.
What the district wants to do is make it so two people will man the station so that when a call comes in, only those two will head to the scene, reducing the response time.
Dave Knapp, the district executive director, said it will cut the response time from more than six minutes to about two minutes, but employees see the move as cutting their shifts — about 21 12-hour shifts per week would be affected — which people depend on for money and puts undue stress on the two-person team. The district has about 25 employees, six of whom are full-time, including Knapp.
Knapp said the district is one of the few in the state that has three-person coverage. If the two-person ambulance crew finds they need extra resources when they arrive at the call, Knapp said at that point they would call either Rochester or Wellington fire for additional aid.
Doug Campbell, an employee with the district since 2006, said emergency aid workers plan to protest the cuts in staff at a district’s board meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. today at the station, 179 E. Herrick Ave. in Wellington. The meeting is open to the public.
The district covers Wellington Village, Wellington Township, Rochester Village, Rochester Township, Brighton Township, Penfield Township and Huntington Township. All together that’s about 125 square miles and about 10,000 residents.
“It’s about getting to people quicker,” Knapp said. “Right now our goal is six minutes out the door, and this is going to be out the door in two minutes, so saving four minutes is pretty big.”
Wellington Fire Chief Mike Wetherbee was not available to comment Monday. Officials from Rochester, which is a volunteer department, also were unavailable.
The district’s board member list is not published anywhere online, and Knapp said there were no agendas for the board meetings.
When asked if reducing ambulance staff was about cutting costs, Knapp said it was solely about reducing response time.
Campbell agreed that the district should be looking at how to decrease response time, but that cutting staff was not the way to go. Campbell said employees were told of the change at a meeting Dec. 20.
“It was a very cold meeting. It should have never happened five days before Christmas,” Campbell said. “There was a lot of anger from employees, tears shed from employees who felt betrayed.”
For part-time employees like Campbell, fewer hours might force some to seek other jobs to make ends meet.
“That’s 21 shifts that people rely on,” Campbell said.
He also said the cut could put the community in danger, if the district does not have enough people on hand to attend to the emergency.
Campbell said the decision came from Knapp and that employees were told that the district’s board agreed with it, but he’s not sure that’s the case.
He said he also wasn’t sure whether Wellington and Rochester would want to or will be able to provide additional aid should the two-person team need it.
He said Wellington and Rochester are “magnanimous” with their help, but this would be asking too much.
“We’re curious as to why Wellington Fire would be conducive or willing to increase their number of calls at no expense,” Campbell said. “There would be no budget for it.”
Also, Campbell said just because
90 percent of Ohio has two-person trucks, that doesn’t mean it’s right for rural southern Lorain County.
“A two-person truck is much more prevalent when you’re five, six, seven, eight minutes away from a hospital,” Campbell said. “Most of our arrive times could be as little as 10 (minutes) but as many as 30 minutes from a hospital; leaving one person in the back of the truck alone to handle a patient for an extended period of time — that’s not good.”
Campbell said employees plan to present their side at the meeting tonight.
“I don’t really think it’s been thought through,” Campbell said.