By David Fleet
Atlas Twp.-On Feb. 1, 2016, Mobile Medical Response or MMR, announced they would locate an ambulance 24 hours a day, seven days per week at 8389 S. State Road, just south of downtown Goodrich.
By July 2019, about 30 months later that EMS unit was relocated.
Company officials from MMR say the 24 hour-EMS service remains but without a base location in the township. The reason, competition from Davison and Grand Blanc have been taking a lot of the calls. That EMS unit will now be dynamic rather than static in one location, say officials. And while the unit might not be there in Goodrich stationed 24 per day, it is strategically located in the community and able to respond. The calls had dropped to less than two per day, with a need of about three required to be profitable.
The same concerns regarding EMS coverage in the township, that have plagued the community for the past several decades, have returned.
Due to low call volume, Goodrich and Atlas Township depend on nearby private ambulance services from Grand Blanc and Davison in case of emergency. As a result, response times in emergency situations have been a concern for township officials for many years. Both Groveland and Brandon townships are just a few miles south of the county line and can respond in fewer minutes. However, the protocol established by Genesee County Medical Control Authority notifies an EMS stationed on Saginaw Street in Grand Blanc or the nearest ambulance that may be somewhere in the area of Goodrich or Atlas Township, not Groveland or Brandon townships.
In an attempt to resolve these issues, on Oct. 25 a meeting at the township fire hall was held with Steve Bullen, Atlas Township fire chief, Tere Onica, Atlas Township supervisor, David Kwapis, Brandon Fire chief, Kevin Mason, Groveland Township fire chief, Bob DePalma, Groveland Township supervisor, Kathy Thurman, Brandon Township supervisor, Chief Brian Flewelling, Davison Richfield area fire authority, Mark Young, Genesee County commissioner 5th district and Chris Swanson, Genesee County undersheriff.
Tere Onica, township supervisor responded to the challenge of providing adequate coverage in the township.
“Atlas Township has made three attempts, not counting the latest presence of MMR in our community, to provide ambulance service,” said Onica. “At one time we even had a volunteer dispatch and free use of the Lion’s Club building, but still we could not financially support the service. It costs about $600,000 annually to run ambulance service.”
The number of runs needed monthly to break even is about 102, she said. Atlas currently logs on average maybe 12 medical runs per month.
“Historically, in the research I have done over the years, the highest number of runs in any given month was about 22,” she said. “That is nowhere near what we would need to fund and operate ambulance service.”
“We have however, tried to partner with Groveland and Brandon Township Fire Departments who provide mutual aid to Atlas on fire runs, to also respond in extreme emergencies as the nearest and most appropriate ambulance service which is the State protocol,” she said. “But Genesee County Medical Control has blocked Brandon and Groveland from responding/transporting due to protocols Genesee County has that are too costly and time consuming for out-county agencies to comply with. This has been an ongoing issue for as long as I can remember. We have gone to the State and Genesee County 911 and Med Control to try to come to some kind of compromise with limited success. Currently, as it is my understanding, Groveland and Brandon are not allowed to respond in Atlas.”
Currently, the township fire department gets dispatched unnecessarily on runs where transport is needed, but as a MFR licensure department, they can only comfort the patient, take vitals and wait for ALS from Genesee County when there is an ALS unit in Groveland and Brandon just a mile from the Atlas Township border.
Over the past several years the EMS issues with several area townships has escalated, prompting the Michigan Township Association-Genesee County to pass a resolution proposing that Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services certification be waived for municipally owned and operated ambulance services, like Groveland and Brandon townships. The CAAS, meets the basic standards and they are more comfortable with that for Genesee County. He also said the CAAS requirement in Genesee County, not required in Oakland County, is due to the large volume of private EMS agencies located in the area and functions as oversight.
Atlas Township is not alone.
Davison-Richfield Fire Chief Flewelling reported that the area medical calls have jumped 38 in 2014 to over 275 in 2018.
“That’s a 600 percent increase,” stated Flewelling in a report to the Genesee County Board of Commissioners. “It’s not entirely uncommon for patients in the outlying areas of the county to wait 15, 20, 30 minutes for an ambulance. There is no more money to subsidize the profits of private corporations. Fire chiefs are faced with a multitude of issues as a direct result of EMS policy in Genesee County.”