Letter to the Editor, Board President Michael J. Kerschner | Aug. 11, 2021
There has been much discussion about a countywide ambulance service (for areas not covered by Tiffin or Fostoria’s paid EMS squads) for at least the last ten years. A recent review of numbers regarding money available to fund a countywide service and data detailing the increasing out-of-service hours at various ambulance districts necessitates our focus on a solution to resolve these concerns.
A rough average for out-of-service times for our existing ambulance districts is 37.1% This compares to out-of-service for 2020 at 22.5% of the time. This percentage of downtime has steadily increased over the past few years. This is a rolling average and is not necessarily for each district with some in-service more often and some less.
Financial resources are available, at this point, that could be used more efficiently. The current carryover for all ambulance districts exceeds $1.2 million. According to information from the Seneca County Auditor’s Office, more than $1 million is expected to be generated by EMS levies in the joint ambulance districts and Green Springs and Adams and Pleasant townships. In addition, the American Rescue Plan funding received by the county can be used, within certain guidelines, for emergency medical services.
All three commissioners agree that now is the time to try to resolve our issues as they relate to downtime and decreasing volunteer participation. We feel it is vital to create a system that is sustainable in the long term, so we can continue to provide quick, reliable and quality service to those who need it in Seneca County.
Seneca County Emergency Services Director Ken Majors has put together a plan that began in 2013 and has been updated as of 2020. This plan calls for either three or four locations with full-time squads across the county. They would be staffed by professional EMS crews 24/7/365. There would be zero out-of-service time. These sites, for the most part, would be supplied with two ambulances and would still make use of volunteers.
Our volunteers have done an incredible job providing these services for more than 40 years, but we must take some of the burden off them. In 2014, we had 140 volunteers on the Seneca County EMS roster. This year, we have 75, with just 54 going on at least two runs and 37 averaging more than one run per month. Right now we have a system that’s run by volunteers and supplemented by paid staff, we believe our future will flip that arrangement. The good news is that some districts are in better shape than others with volunteers, so we will continue to work with those folks as long as we can as we make changes to solidify our future.
There are numerous issues to iron out as we move toward one countywide ambulance district. However, we need to move forward for the sake of those we represent and to assure that we can professionally respond to 911 calls for service within 10 minutes in every area of the county.
In summary, we have money available to build a solid foundation for a county-wide ambulance service, we have agreement between the three commissioners and several townships that the path forward is what we are proposing, and we have the support of EMS administration to move forward.
This board of commissioners has deemed providing emergency medical services to our citizens as one of the most important responsibilities we have. We are in a unique position concerning our finances and leadership, and I believe we must do something different to improve the long-term outlook of our system.
If not now, when?