Response times expected to rise as fire districts cut back on me - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Response times expected to rise as fire districts cut back on medical runs

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The majority of suburban fire districts in Metro Louisville are scaling back on medical runs. Starting this week, 13 districts will only respond to the most serious level of emergency medical calls.

In a letter to Metro EMS June 27, the Jefferson County Fire Chiefs Association said they would no longer respond to calls that weren't "Echo" level. "Echo" indicates the patient is at the highest level of medical need, and their life is likely in jeopardy. The letter clarifies that the policy will stay in place even if fire units are closer to the scene than EMS.

Metro EMS says response times in suburban districts could increase by three to four minutes due to the cuts.

"It takes fire [officials] five minutes to get there, and we get there in eight," said Metro EMS Chief Executive Officer Dr. Neal Richmond. "We're losing that early response."

Fire officials say tight budgets are to blame for the cuts. One official points out that suburban districts get only 10 cents for every $100 in taxable property.

Officials also say responding to low level medical calls takes away from their ability to properly respond to fire calls.

"We have to be able to perform our primary function, which is fire protection," said Chief Jeff Riddle of Jefferson County Fire Chiefs Association.

Louisville, Anchorage, Harrods Creek and Eastwood fire departments will continue current levels of service.

The decision comes after a year of failed negotiations with metro government. Most recently, metro government offered suburban districts $10 million over the next ten years. The money would be divided among districts.

"They wanted us to agree to a maximum of $10 million over the next ten years, however, they wanted us to take on 99 call types which was over adding an additional 23,000 runs to suburban fire districts, if you divide that up, you're talking less than $40 a run," said Riddle. He says it costs them more like $250 to make a run.

"They do have capacity in their houses, and we've been making offers to them that we feel like more than cover the cost," said Mayor Greg Fischer. "We feel like $1 million more than covers it."

Officials say negotiations are not dead, as they stay open to the possibility of a deal.

"We cannot hold patients in our community hostage," said Richmond. "We will work out the money, but you can't work out a life."

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