Time to act on ambulance service

February 24, 2012

Let’s face it. It’s time to get our heads out of the sand and deal with the ambulance crisis in the north end of the County. I applaud the formation of the Independent Citizens for Ambulance and Rescue Efficiency (ICARE) and hope they put enough pressure on our elected officials to provide the needed change.

I was not happy to read that Clare County Commission Chairperson Don David would not allow the new group on last week’s Commission meeting agenda. What would be the harm? It’s an issue that needs to be discussed in an official setting, and last week’s board meeting would have been a great time.

And the man that David says makes all the decisions regarding ambulance dispatching- Keith Yats, did not attend the meeting. I find that odd knowing that ICARE and dozens of people would be at the meeting to discuss ambulance service and dispatching. It seems to me the man in charge would be present.

It is a sticky situation for commissioners and Yats. The fact that two ambulance services- the local United Ambulance Service and the Saginaw-based Medical Mobile Response have been allowed to stumble over each other to grab customers, borders on insanity.  In an effort, I guess, not to ruffle feathers, the Commission, continues to allow both services to operate.

Instead of more efficient service, however, the opposite has happened. There has been dispute after dispute as to who should get what call- the rule of thumb is the closest ambulance, but the system clearly isn’t working. Part of the problem is the County’s Central Dispatch must call MMR’s dispatch when they want to issue a MMR ambulance. In other words, the County can not directly call an MMR ambulance. To me, that seems very inefficient.

Another problem is that MMR refuses to honor paid in advance subscriptions that United sold years ago when they were the only ambulance service in the area. Back then, a resident could buy lifetime ambulance service for a certain fee. If an MMR ambulance is dispatched to your home, that subscription is no longer valid.

Personally, I don’t believe the government or any organization should be able to dictate to me what ambulance service I have to use, unless they are going to pay for the service. If I live in Harrison, which I do, and I’m experiencing  a heart attack I should be able to call 9-1-1, and request MMR or United. For chrissakes, they both have ambulances within 5 minutes of my home.

Judy Weber asks, “How would you feel if your husband called 9-1-1, because he was having a heart attack and it took the ambulance over 30 minutes to arrive?” To make matters worse, she says, the ambulance got lost on the way to their home.

Then, on top of that, the ambulance driver asked her twice for directions to the hospital, while she was sitting in the ambulance watching them attempt to do CPR on her husband. Sadly, her husband died. Now Judy is one of the founders of ICARE, and is a driving force in trying to make ambulance service more efficient in Clare County.

The County Commission, United, MMR and now ICARE need to sit down at the table and iron out their differences. This isn’t about ego. This isn’t about money. This is about saying the lives of citizens.  Citizens are demanding better service and efficiency. It’s time to act!

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