Not being a big fan of hyperbole, Concord Fire Chief Mark Cotreau pauses for a moment before carefully articulating four words he’ll repeat several times during a media briefing on the Emergency Medical Service Strategic Plan to be presented during a Nov. 27 public form.
The words, “acute critical service gap,” describe CFD’s increasing reliance on mutual aid for EMS calls and medical transports, a trend Cotreau and a team of CFD and finance department members have examined over the past year.
Their findings: That CFD, with one ambulance cross-staffed with another piece of fire apparatus, can no longer adequately respond to all requests for emergency medical transports in Concord, a town with about 17,600 residents but a service population closer to 100,000.
To address that problem, the EMS Strategic Plan recommends adding an additional primary ambulance, to be housed at the West Concord Fire Station, and adding sufficient personnel to staff the ambulance a minimum of 12 hours a day, seven days a week – with the ultimate goal of staffing it 24/7 by year five.
To view the plan in full, click on the PDF posted above.
“It is obvious we’ve uncovered an acute statistical service gap that needs to be dealt with,” said Cotreau. “We need to be able to respond to and handle two medical calls at a time, and right now we can’t. This arrangement will provide that.”
Consistency is Key
It’s not that Concord’s EMS service is poor, says Cotreau, but a sound EMS system is built on consistency, and CFD has been consistently receiving more mutual aid from neighboring departments than it has been providing in return.
According to a draft presentation of the EMS Strategic Plan report, CFD responded to almost 1,600 medical emergencies, on top of another 1,400 fire-related responses, service calls and minor medical assists.
While the town has about 17,000 residents, Concord is also home to private schools, retirement homes, medical offices, tourist-friendly national parks and a pair of prisons.
With only one ambulance, the department struggles to respond to simultaneous emergency calls and therefore has leaned more heavily on mutual aid ambulance assistance in recent years. According to the report’s executive summary, Concord is on track to have at least 235 ambulance transports handled by neighboring departments this year.
The report estimates the addition of a fully staffed ambulance, to be stationed in West Concord, would cover 80 percent of the responses currently handled through mutual aid. As well, this additional ambulance would improve of response times and on-scene wait times, the report says.
Under the recommendation, the current ambulance would continue to be cross-staffed from a crew at the CFD headquarters on Walden Street, and the regional advanced life support system would continue, as well.
The committee that worked on the EMS Strategic Plan was comprised of Cotrea, CFD Lt. Edward Conlin, CFD Capt. Thomas Judge, CFD Lt. Brian Whitney, EMS Coordinator Anthony Geanisis, assistant EMS coordinator Kevin Fagerquist and consultant Mike Wallace of Wallace Training Associates.
Cotreau said they have been working on the plan for about the past year. “As a chief, it’s amazing to see the commitment of firefifhters when you have a project like this, when you know something’s wrong with your system and you’ve got to identify it,” he said.
According to the draft plan, the preferred option – Option 3 in the PDF attached above – would require a modification to the collective bargaining agreement and budget increase of about $500,000 over five years, excluding the cost of the ambulance.
The next step is for the EMS Strategic Plan to be presented at a public meeting to be held at 7 p.m. next Tuesday, Nov. 27 at the Harvey Wheeler Community Center. Whether and how to fund the plan would be more fully vetted after the meeting.