What’s The Rush?

03Dec10

Still Waiting

Changes on the way for Stratford EMS
Brittany Lyte, Staff Writer
Published: 11:04 p.m., Thursday, December 2, 2010

STRATFORD — In August, a report by an independent consultant estimated that Stratford Emergency Management Services had lost more than a half-million dollars to private ambulance companies due to a low emergency response rate that year.
The report blames the financial blow, and what several volunteers at the time called a threat to public safety, on a storm of internal troubles — infighting, nepotism and volunteer participation and retention troubles, to name a few.

In response, Mayor John A. Harkins rolled out a five-step plan to overhaul what the report characterizes as a “toxic” and “dysfunctional” atmosphere at the emergency services department.
The crux of the plan calls for the establishment of EMS as an independent town department, just like the police and fire departments. To facilitate that transition, the mayor proposed to hire a chief to head the department.
The plan also calls for another vehicle in the ambulance fleet, enforcement of mandatory service hours and the addition of professional training programs. And Harkins recommended the department outsource medical billing and records services.
At the time, Harkins said these items would be rolled out by the end of the year. But it’s nearly 2011 and, so far, none of the mayor’s improvements have been fully implemented.
Change is on the way for EMS, the mayor said this week. Yet a lack of material evidence has the patience of some members growing thin.

“The pace at which this is being implemented is very frustrating,” said Gavin Forrester, a 23-year volunteer at the department.
Meanwhile, according to Forrester, morale at the department has not improved: “There’s a lot of animosity being expressed by some who like things as they are and others who think new leadership and some of these changes are a good thing.”
He added, “Not much has changed since the summer.”

A new ambulance was ordered and received, Harkins said. But it was sent back due to several manufacturing problems, like errors in the sizing of several harnesses and restraint systems. An ambulance, outfitted to the proper specs this time, should arrive within the next two weeks, Harkins said.
The department is also in the process of hiring a fifth paramedic who should be on board within a week, according to Harkins.

In September, a national recruiting effort for an EMS chief was launched by CBG Strategies, the same group that issued the August report detailing inefficiencies within the department. About 40 applicants responded to the search, Harkins said, adding that applicants are still being screened. Once a chief is on board, Harkins said the rest of his recommendations will rank at the top of his or her to-do list: enforcing mandatory ambulance hours for all volunteer EMTs and adding professional development courses for supervisors. “One of the things that this new chief is going to do is actually put some standards in place,” Harkins said. “We’re really trying to make this a more professional organization. And what we’re really hoping is to regain most of the half-million dollars we’ve been leaving on the table.”

Perhaps the biggest change to come is a new EMS facility set beside the fire department on Main Street.
For years, the department has been waiting for a new building. And while neither Harkins nor Town Engineer John Casey could offer a firm date on which EMS members can move in to their new home, Harkins said its long-awaited, oft-delayed opening is finally in sight. A furniture shipment is scheduled to arrive at the facility — equipped with a garage for ambulances, a large kitchen and several flat-screen televisions — within the next two weeks. Phone lines are set to be installed on the first of the year.

“This has been a long time coming,” Harkins said. “We’re going to have a new building for a new EMS.”

We noticed there was not a single comment from the current EMS Administrator, Donna Best. It’s almost as if everything is just fine. In the meantime more volunteers are dropping out, more calls are being transferred to AMR (at an average of $750 EACH), more studies are being done, and no one is accepting any responsibility. The only action we’ve heard about is finding a way to punish anyone involved in Stratford EMS for talking to a reporter. It is as if Stratford EMS needs another way to discourage volunteers.

Advertisements


26 Responses to “What’s The Rush?”

  1. 1 jezebel282

    In a related story:

    Stratford EMS workers could get tax break
    Brittany Lyte, Staff Writer
    Published: 10:47 p.m., Thursday, December 2, 2010

    STRATFORD — Town council members are considering whether a tax abatement program for volunteer emergency medical technicians could help heal staffing troubles at the EMS station…

    …Councilman Jason Santi said, “I thought that maybe this could be an incentive to help get current volunteers working more hours and bring in some new recruits,” he said. “If this were to pass, I think it would be very complimentary to some of the reforms already happening at the EMS department.”

    Err, Jason, it cost over $500 just to take the 14 week EMT B course. Then there is the EMT I course and then there is the Paramedic courses.

  2. 2 1george1

    I would have no problem with a reimbursement based on
    number of hours served.

    I have respected the volunter work of EMS people.

    I note the proposed tax abatement would benefit former
    Town Councilors Forester and Calzone.

    Since 1998, during which time both were on the Town Council.
    1 – Pension Obligations increased 251%
    2 – Lawyer fees increased 500 % to 800 %
    3 – Health Insurance cost up 400 % (est)
    4 – Budgets more than doubled – while private sector stagnated
    5 – Economic exodus > Dictaphone chapt 11, Dianon gone, Mobil gone
    Coca Cola gone, Bargain News gone, Dresser downsize 200%, Sikorsky
    downsized over 80 %
    6 – AVCO closed, granted preferred vender, now on 4th Bid
    7 – Shakespeare on 4th Plan
    8 – Airport caused loss of acre
    9 – Defined Benefit Bond repayment & shortfall over $ 200 million

    “some” unpaid volunteers and paid profeessional may be over paid?

  3. 3 ronmoreau

    Jez,

    “Town council members are considering whether a tax abatement program for volunteer emergency medical technicians…”

    A tax abatement for volunteers?

    There are countless volunteers on many boards , commissions, school system,and community centers in our Town of Stratford. Why should EMS volunteers be singled out for a “tax abatement?

  4. 4 mikereynolds

    Ron,

    If someone doesn’t show up to a BOE meeting or a Zoning meeting the meeting will either go on or be cancelled because of a lack of quorum.

    If someone doesn’t show up on an ambulance somebody could die.

  5. 5 ronmoreau

    Mike,

    A ‘tax abatement’ for EMS volunteers is not a solution. It’s just not fare to all the other Stratford volunteers.

    “Mayor John A. Harkins rolled out a five-step plan to overhaul what the report characterizes as a “toxic” and “dysfunctional” atmosphere at the emergency services department.”

    This “toxic” and “dysfuncional” atmosphere appears to be the problem. Correcting this is the solution to the volunteer problem.

  6. 6 1george1

    Not being a politician by writing both Mike + Ron have legit points.
    EMS is LIFE & DEATH.

    While many serve on BOARDS and COMMISSION for the RIGHT REASONS,
    the POLITICAL PARTIES use those people for their own ends as many
    see similar positions, and are unlikley to buck political desires.
    > NO OFFENSE RON – but I am NOT going to be appointed on ANY
    BOARDS or COMMISSIONS, where I have an INDEPENDENT VOICE and
    the COMMISSION is NOT CONTROLLED by a MAJORITY to do the will
    of the PARTY.
    > TOWN COUNCILS complained about lack of political volunteers and
    turned away everyone they feared would make waves or ….
    True of Charter Revision & FAC and most others involving money …

    APPEARANCES that there are a payoff to Gavin + Calzone?
    I have NO DOUBT Gavin, nor CALZONE would never cease EMS as long
    as they could be involved, with or without abatement.

    I am not writing the EMS do not deserve expenses and/or incentive.
    It is always a matter of SCALE.

    —-

    “This “toxic” and “dysfuncional” atmosphere appears to be the problem. Correcting this is the solution to the volunteer problem.”

    Ron it is true of all of Stratford and many other politics ….
    I deleted 2 words from your quote ….

    “toxic” and “dysfuncional” atmosphere appears to be the problem.
    Correcting this is the solution to the problems.

  7. 7 jezebel282

    Ron,

    “This “toxic” and “dysfuncional” atmosphere appears to be the problem. Correcting this is the solution to the volunteer problem.”

    PRECISELY!

    And it gets more toxic and dysfunctional every day.

    A tax abatement is putting a bandaid on a laceration. We are hemorrhaging $600,000 a year due to poor management. How much clearer can it be?

  8. 8 mikereynolds

    Ron,

    I’m not saying its a solution.

    I’m addressing your comments vis a vis other town volunteers.

    To me there is a big difference between volunteering to serve on a board and volunteering to provide medical assistance to residents.

    If the town wants to give a small tax abatement to either help bring in more volunteers or retain the ones they have I don’t have a problem with that.

  9. 9 1george1

    While it can save some money for volunteers, including
    Gavin and Calzone, the appearances stink related to the
    two of them, who have been on the Town Councils that
    have thrown shovels of money to:
    LAWYERS
    Certain Town Committee Members
    MANAGERS / RANK
    BIDDERS / CHANGE ORDERS
    BUILDING NEEDs
    PENSIONERS
    TOWN police / fire / p w more than admin staff
    EDUCATION Teachers
    Political donations feeders

  10. 10 ronmoreau

    mike,

    “To me there is a big difference between volunteering to serve on a board and volunteering to provide medical assistance to residents.”

    To me there is no difference. Per Se.

    The parent that volunteers their time in a classroom mentoring a child.

    The volunteer , at the Baldwin community center, helping a Stratford senior.

    The volunteer at Sterling House Food Pantry carrying a box of food to someones vehicle.

    The volunteer at Booth park, tending to the rose garden.

    The volunteers on every Stratford commission.

    I’m sure you get the gist.

    More deserving of a ‘tax abatement’ than the ‘no show’ “volunteers on the Stratford EMS.

  11. 11 jezebel282

    Ron, Mike,

    “More deserving of a ‘tax abatement’ than the ‘no show’ “volunteers on the Stratford EMS.”

    While this, and every Town, depends heavily on volunteers none have the immediate responsibilities and urgency of EMT’s. Even Sudds volunteers his time to Sterling House.

    Not a single volunteer EMT or paramedic I’ve spoken to is all that thrilled about a small rebate. It is totally beside the point. IMHO, it is a teeny tiny recognition by the Council that volunteer EMT’s are important to the Town. The issue of the rebate is minor. After all expenses the Stratford Volunteer EMS Association returned $325,000 to the Town. Not a dime of this would have been possible without volunteer EMT’s.

    Let’s keep in mind that EMT’s must pay for their own training, time and transportation to even become an EMT. Then they must pass a certification test by the State of CT. If I recall, Stratford EMS allows volunteers a $35 per YEAR allowance for their own uniforms. If they want one with pockets (imagine the nerve!) they must kick in an extra $15 of their own. Should the uniform become covered in, shall we say, patient fluids or ripped or torn, well they should have been more careful.

    Yet after all of that, volunteer EMT’s are responding to calls at all hours of the day & night helping the sickest, neediest and most injured of us. Many times (far too many) they respond to accident scenes where the only appropriate tools are a paint scraper and sponge.

    You would think that whoever is in charge of this group of dedicated citizens would treat them with dignity, respect, fairness and gratitude. And therein, lies our problem.

    Important note: The Town’s EMS volunteer webpage has apparently not been updated since August of 2008. If you want accurate information regarding volunteering go to: http://svemsassociation.com/

  12. 12 1george1

    I believe the rebate program was suggested by Jason Santi
    (appropriate amagram? “Joins Satan”)

    Jason is a protoge of Kent, who is one of Jimmy’s best friends.
    Jimmy is the adopted son Dead beat Dick.

    One can never tell how much is an act in stratford and what is real,
    however it appeared that Jimmy and friends have differences with
    the EMS crowd Gavin and Calzone.

    However, it played out Stratford has a Firehouse costing over $ 7 million
    when it was approved in 2001 for $ 1.6 million.

    This allowed for the old fire house to be retrofitted into the EMS.

    Even FEEHAN raised the question “I thought the reason we built the
    NEW FIRE HOUSE was because we couldn’t fix the OLD FIRE HOUSE?

    There is a saying that you can not tell the players, without a program.
    That is true in Stratford.
    However, one can never be sure who is on which team or playing which role?

  13. 13 sudds

    I am 100% against tax breaks for volunteers!!!

    HOWEVER…

    Considering that our volunteer EMT’s actually (1) make money for the town and (2)save residents money… and that more EMT’s equals (3) more money for the town and (4) less money paid out by residents… I AM 100% in favor of covering their costs!

    (and… to keep Portia happy… closely monitored to prevent abuses)

  14. 14 ronmoreau

    sudds,

    I’ll second that.

  15. 15 jezebel282

    Sudds,

    “I am 100% against tax breaks for volunteers!!!”

    It’s almost irrelevant. This is such a non-issue.

    The real issue is that due to poor management, poor recruiting, poor retention and poor planning we have lost $600,000 in revenue (and continue to lose it) and have endangered residents.

    In 2009, the Stratford EMS Association generated $325,000 in revenue. Adding in the $600,000 in revenue that was gobbled up by mutual aid calls to AMR, anyone can see that nearly $1 million per year is a serious matter….even in a $184 million budget.

    Anyone that is except Donna Best, James Cavanaugh and John Harkins.

  16. 16 sudds

    “I am 100% against tax breaks for volunteers!!!”

    It’s almost irrelevant. This is such a non-issue.

    Ummm… aren’t you the one who has been going on for months about how there are no jobs and that people are unemployed??? (hmmm… until about month or so ago anyway… congrats on finding a job?!?!?!)

    How many people in Stratford may want to join, but can’t afford it? And what if you took away that “hurdle”? More recruits/EMTs = less transfers to AMR!

    I’m not certain how this is a non-issue?!?!?

  17. 17 1george1

    Sudds,
    I do not like the “appearances” of tax breaks for volunteers.

    I have no problems with legitimate expenses or class reimbursement,
    provided stipulations and requirements are met and surpassed.

  18. 18 jezebel282

    Sudds,

    “How many people in Stratford may want to join, but can’t afford it?”

    Oh…that. Yes, I certainly agree with that. The only problem with that would be everyone from everywhere getting free EMT certification and then going elsewhere….like AMR, Nelson or departments in other towns that actually pay EMT’s and Paramedics.

  19. 19 sudds

    G: “I have no problems with legitimate expenses or class reimbursement,
    provided stipulations and requirements are met and surpassed.”

    Hence my “proposal”

    “The only problem with that would be everyone from everywhere getting free EMT certification and then going elsewhere….like AMR, Nelson or departments in other towns that actually pay EMT’s and Paramedics.”

    Hence the reason why lawyers (they’re not ALWAYS leeching sc*mbags) invented the “non-compete” clause, required commitment to the department, etc!

  20. 20 jezebel282

    Sudds,

    “Hence the reason why lawyers (they’re not ALWAYS leeching sc*mbags)”

    Is this the same lawyer Portia was referring to in an earlier post?

  21. 21 sudds

    Maybe*!

    * I stopped reading her(?) and Chris’ (and sometimes your) posts back-and-forth months ago!!!

  22. 22 1george1

    Sudds,
    Likely I read it a few days ago and accidently plagarized.
    I defer as great minds think alike……

    Oooops.

  23. 23 phineast

    A few years ago, the same issue was brought up and discussed. It was determined at that time tax abatement for volunteer services is not legal…technically. It would become an IRS quagmire, as the abatement would be considered a form of compensation or a “gift” by the IRS.
    I agree with George on this one-refer to post number 17.
    Maybe the rules have changes in the last couple of years-but I don’t think the town would want to get involved in it-though the sentiment was “nice”. You can go a long way in appreciation of volunteers, by having both the administration and the public be respectful of the jobs AND the people that do them and by actually saying thank you, well done, once in a while. Respect and appreciation. Throw in intelligent management and proper supplies and you have a home run.

  24. 24 1george1

    Phin,

    Since when did the Town attorneys, government, and committee
    care about the Law?

    Who will investigate?
    Burturlas?
    Shirillo?
    Comers = FBI?

    The average pension will likely average about $ 80,000
    The average cash out will likely average about $ 30,000
    The average annuity will likely average about $ ?
    The average 401 (for those with both) will likely average about?
    The average Health Care will likely average about @ 20,000 gross
    and over $ 17,000 net = tax payer’s share.

    Yeah the police and fire unions really hate Burturlas/ Mirons / Harkins
    / Florek / Malloy

    # 1 pensioner had $ 34,000 or $ 44,000 cash out from $ 127,000 or
    $ 93,000 or $ 83,000 net contribution in 27 years. I forget.
    > He also got $ 134,000 pension
    + Annuity + 401 + Health Care.

    Meanwhile the EMS will find people frozen to death this winter with
    $3.00 gallon heating oil / similar gas price.

    —-

    I appreciate the Volunteer EMS.
    There are a lot of good police and fire among others, who lack the guts
    to stand up to peer pressure and do the right things.

    —-

    I asked Ray V why he didn’t like a certain lawyer ….
    “Because he and his friends are greedy.”

    I don’t care the people of stratford have rolled over and spread their cheeks.
    And the political and government people = silence of the lambs = ME FIRST!

    Sorry Phin,
    you come across as a g e n t l e m a n

    I am completely disillusioned.

    Diogenes wouldn’t find many honest people in government / politics!
    It is systemic!

  25. 25 jezebel282

    Phin,

    “Respect and appreciation. Throw in intelligent management and proper supplies and you have a home run.”

    I completely agree. There are no volunteer EMT’s clamoring for any sort of special treatment.

    The respect and appreciation will simply not come under the current EMS management. We have had a dedicated group of highly trained and dedicated citizens who have been treated as if they were committing some sort of crime by even showing up.

    “by actually saying thank you, well done, once in a while.”
    Now this is really sad. I had occasion to express my gratitude to an EMS crew. Silly me, I had thought that doing it in writing to the EMS Administrator would be appropriate and my thanks would “trickle down” to the crew. Had I not also sent my gratitude through another source, the crew would have never known how grateful I was. The Administrator never passed it along and obviously felt that it wasn’t important enough.

    I believe there may be one or two EMT’s in Stratford that might read this so I will say it again; your service and dedication are truly appreciated by the rest of Stratford. Your caring, gentleness and kindness are your badges of honor.

  26. 26 jezebel282

    Update:

    While we continue to bleed cash from EMS and shun any attempt at fixing it, there is yet a brand new way the EMS Administrator has devised to spend more taxpayer money.

    An “Independent Investigation” conducted by “independent counsel” to investigate…wait for it…whether somebody actually gave Brittany Lyte (CT Post) information and/or comments while “on duty” for her article on the disintegration of Stratford EMS.

    Since we already know what “independent counsels” are paid to do, we can probably look forward to the attempted removal of one of our best volunteer EMT’s by Donna Best. And it should only cost the tax payers 20 or maybe 30 thousand dollars.

    You have to wonder why Gavin Forrester even bothers any more.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: