To The Daily Sun,
I am writing to follow up on the letter I sent to the Laconia City Council a few days ago about the proposed privatization of the city’s ambulance service.
I have concerns about the city’s request (RFP) to staff one ambulance 24/7 at the paramedic level and a second at the advanced level. (https://www.laconianh.gov/DocumentCenter/View/2381/RFP-No-1803-02-Emergency-Ambulance-Services-Final-3-21-18)
Currently the Fire Department had the ability to staff three ambulances at the paramedic level, with one of these ambulances dedicated to the Weirs.
Why would the city be seeking proposals for a level of service less than that already being provided?
In the spirt of full disclosure, I retired from the Laconia Fire Department in 2012. I was one of the department’s first paramedics and I was on the ambulance committee back in 1997 when LRGH and the City of Laconia formed the unique partnership to provide EMS.
My last few years with the department, I was promoted to captain and was responsible for overseeing the Weirs station. During my tenure, with the backing of Chief Erickson, a third ambulance was equipped and staffed by the Weirs duty crew.
The City Council’s current proposal requires a third ambulance to be available in 30 minutes. Due to the large percentage of calls in the downtown area, both ambulances will likely be kept downtown. This will effectively remove the ambulance from the Weirs Beach Fire Station.
Certainly if the city does privatize EMS, they likely won’t want to pay to maintain the firefighter's EMS licenses and certifications. Will they require that the Fire Department continue to respond to medical emergencies?
The Weirs station is normally staffed with an officer and two firefighters. One of these staff is a paramedic. On my shift, I would fill that role. My crew and I would, based on the type of emergency dispatched, take the appropriate apparatus. If the call was for a medical in the Weirs, we would staff the ambulance to treat and transport the patient. If the call was fire related, we would respond in the engine.
This versatility is what makes the Laconia Fire Department so effective. One ambulance is staffed 24/7 out of the Central Station. The firefighters assigned to the engine(s) can swap apparatus as needed. This ensures there are multiple ambulances (three) available if needed. This provides a level of flexibility to the officers to handle the various types of emergencies that occur in Laconia.
Laconia has a very busy fire department. Their call volume is comparable to cities twice their size. The Laconia Fire department is staffed with nine firefighters and officers. During peak/busy times, extra staff are brought in on overtime to handle the extra calls.
If a separate ambulance service is brought into the city, the Fire Department will still be called on for assistance. Manpower to help carry patients or additional staff needed in the back of the ambulance for critical patients. I would estimate 50 percent of the ambulance responses will still require the Fire Department to respond.
Chief Erickson believes that the Fire Department can continue to provide EMS with no change or decrease in the level of care. He believes that the cost will be offset by the funds collected from the ambulance, In essence providing EMS to the city for no increase in cost to the taxpayer.
Excuse me, Mr. Mayor and City Council, but this seems to be a “no brainer.”
Chief Erickson and the members of the Laconia Fire Department deserve the opportunity to prove themselves once again to the citizens of Laconia.
Keep the ambulances within the Fire Department. Do what is right for the city, the citizens and the department.
Laconia Fire Captain (Retired)