Ambulance, county discuss service issues
Midwest Ambulance Service owners, father and son Kim and Jason Chapman, attended the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors meeting Monday, along with Fairfield City Council member Martha Rassmussen who serves on the Ambulance Service Agency Board, as does Supervisor Becky Schmitz.
“We’ve been providing ambulance service in Jefferson County a little more than a year,” said Jason Chapman. “We bring critical care service, the highest authorized level in the state.
“You’ve had several instances in the past year in the county when only a critical care paramedic can take the call.
“Previously, you had three options,” he said. “You could fly the patient out, you could take a nurse along on the ambulance run or you could violate the law.
“Your service is fully staffed. To put to rest some community rumors, the only Midwest Ambulance folks who come from Des Moines are the base operators, such as Scott Nelson, one of our supervisors.”
Jason Chapman said of 13 ambulance employees, six have been on staff since Midwest took over the service. He said the average tenure for the staff is nine months because there have been three turnovers in the past year.
He explained employees work 48 hours on then have 48 hours off. During the first 24 of the 48 hours on, the employees are on the “first out” shift, responding to ambulance service calls. The second 24 hours of the 48 on, employees are on-call.
Sheriff Gregg Morton said when Midwest Ambulance first took over at the county’s request he didn’t know any of the people working at the ambulance.
“We can’t staff with local people if they don’t apply,” said Kim Chapman.
Jason Chapman said several employees live within 3 to 4 minutes of the ambulance base and some live 15 minutes away.
“If an employee lives further than 15 minutes away from base, they have to stay at the ambulance barn while on call,” he said.
Ambulance service calls are dispatched by the Jefferson County Law Enforcement Center to the ambulance drivers.
Morton wants ambulance drivers to rely more on maps and county plat books than on GPS systems they are using.
Earlier in the year, an ambulance needed near Batavia went instead to Packwood.
Morton and supervisor chairman Lee Dimmitt asked how that could happen.
“Since that came up and we’ve discussed it, we have improved tracking,” said Jason Chapman. “We listened to the call and no town was given until 20 minutes into the call.”
Morton said the dispatch center uses number coordinates on maps for locations.
“That’s why I say get away from GPS and use the maps,” said Morton.
Jason Chapman suggested the sheriff or his designee talk with the ambulance staff about reading the maps and plat books. Morton said each ambulance vehicle now is equipped with paper maps.
“What we’re doing, because of that incident, is the ambulance staff is repeating back to dispatch the instructions heard, so everyone understands one another,” said Kim Chapman.
Morton said the GPS wouldn’t show where bridges have been gone for 20 years.
“We had an ambulance call recently that was an address down a road where the bridge has been out for 20 years, and I drove there, parked my truck with all the lights visible from the four-lane, and gave instructions not to turn on the road of the address but to go around and come back, and the ambulance still went down the road with the bridge out,” said Morton. “The second ambulance got there first — two were needed — because a local guy was in the ambulance. Please, use the plat books as back-up to GPS.”
Kim Chapman asked Morton — or anyone else — to report such incidents as soon at something happens.
“Call me, so we can listen to the call and resolve the issue,” said Kim Chapman.
Jason Chapman said Midwest Ambulance has a tracking system to see the actual routes driven by its vehicles.
“I’d like to address a lack of judgment on the part of an employee running back from Pekin with emergency lights on and running stop signs,” said Dimmitt.
Jason Chapman said it was a new vehicle and the headlights collected water and weren’t giving enough light in a heavy rain condition.
“The individual decided to use the emergency lights through intersections,” he said.
Morton said according to the report from one his deputies, the ambulance was running down the whole road with emergency lights on, not only at intersections.
Schmitz said the ambulance was not transporting a patient at the time of this particular incident.
“Why use the running lights?” Morton said. “If a vehicle pulls over to let the ambulance pass, and the vehicle goes off the road into the ditch in the rain [with low visibility] who is liable?”
Kim Chapman said the issue had already been addressed between his company and law enforcement.
Dimmitt said it concerned him because the incident shows un-professionalism and liability issues the county could face if an accident is caused by negligence.
“In my opinion, there’s a difference in a rolling stop at a stop sign and going through a traffic-light controlled intersection,” said Kim Chapman.
Supervisor Dick Reed suggested the meeting move forward.
“You’ve only brought up problems, you haven’t mentioned any of the good we’ve done,” said Kim Chapman. “Some people in this room don’t care for us to have taken over the ambulance service. They want the old system back.”
Dimmitt said he took exception to Chapman’s comment.
“I don’t care who runs the service,” said Dimmitt. “I care about having good service.”
Dimmitt said ambulance personnel need to develop relationships with the Fairfield Fire Department, the county sheriff’s office and the Fairfield Police Department.
He also asked, now that ambulance vehicle ownership and maintenance has been transferred from the county to Midwest, what the replacement schedule would be.
“Will we get new vehicles or hand-me downs?” said Dimmitt. “I didn’t realize one of the ambulances we got was not new. I thought when we spent $150,000 on an ambulance, it would be a new vehicle.”
Jason Chapman said the contract says Midwest is in charge of replacing vehicles, it doesn’t specify new or used.
“We have ordered one new vehicle for the county,” he said.
Schmitz said in Midwest Ambulance’s defense, the company did provide vehicle maintenance.
“Our business has benefited you,” said Jason Chapman. “When Jefferson County had vehicles out of service, we brought units down from Des Moines to run. We didn’t have to do that.
“We learn from our mistakes and want to keep communications open.”
“Our business is taking care of people,” Morton said. “We’ll work with you about maps.”