On Sunday, The Blade had an article with a terrific headline: Ambulance runs will pay off for city, fire officials assert. New service squeezes private transporters.
Doesn't that just about say it all?
But that was just the headline. In the second paragraph you see that perhaps the headline is a bit misleading.
"But so far, basic life-support ambulances - which began their full operation last month - haven't brought in any profit and are projected to cost the city nearly $1 million over the next five years to lease six rigs."
Granted, the article is filled with quotes and estimates that the profit will be there, despite a projected collection rate of only 40%. But I can't help but wonder if the 'profit' that is projected was ever balanced with the lack of payroll taxes, income taxes and other taxed due to the city caused by the elimination of jobs and income by the private ambulance companies.
Certainly someone looked at that DECREASE in tax revenue, even though it was never discussed by city council. Perhaps not, though, as that would have required city council members to think of such a question in the first place.
But the real zinger is the false claim that better patient care is a result of this decision - based upon the following:
"Jim Martin, president of Toledo Firefighters Local 92, said first responders are able to more quickly return to service. In the past, fire engines were out of service while they waited for a private ambulance to arrive.
"Now, they turn around and go back into service," Mr. Martin said.
Rescuers were called to a West Toledo apartment last week and were able to quickly transport a 3-year-old boy, who had fallen and hit his head, to Toledo Hospital.
Previously, first responders would have arrived, assessed the scene, and then called a private ambulance company to transport the boy - which sometimes took up to 20 minutes, Mr. Harman said.
Within minutes of the call, the little boy was buckled into a child safety seat inside the rig and was on his way to the hospital.
"He might still be there waiting for the private ambulance [and] now he's at the hospital," Mr. Harman said. "That's where the patient care gets better.""
If the main 'problem' government was trying to address in taking over this task was the delay waiting for the arrival of the basic life support ambulance run, it would have been easy to fix. Ambulance companies have, for years, asked to be dispatched at the same time as the rescue squad, with the understanding that they'd respond without lights and sirens. They even offered to cover any internal expenses as a result of getting to the scene only to find that they might not be needed. But if they were needed, they'd be present and ready to transport, allowing the fire unit to return quickly to service.
But that idea was routinely rejected by the fire department without much explanation - or at least none that made a lot of sense.
And here's where the problem with article comes in. The article explains that:
"Basic life-support units and first responders are dispatched simultaneously, which also reduces the amount of time it takes to get patients to the hospital, said Luke Harman, a firefighter and EMT at Station 9 in South Toledo."
Did you note that? Under the city-run transport services, they're now dispatching the tranport unit AND the first responders at the same time - and then they're using this as an example of 'better patient care.'
Of course, they could have agreed to this dispatching protocol without going to expense of leasing ambulances and then staffing them ... and without significantly impacting local private companies. But where's the fun in that?
Again, it's anti-logic. It doesn't make sense to say that 'governmentizing' such tasks results in better patient care when a simple change in protocol was all that was needed. Face it - this really had nothing to do with patient care or time at the scene because both these issues could have been addressed by implementing the protocol the city changed - dual dispatching.
So why did government have to take over this function? I'll let you decided - and comment accordingly.
ASIDE: background on this issue is available here and here.