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11/07/2012

Medstar Begins Service to City of Eastpointe

Medstar to run ambulance service in Eastpointe

By Sara Kandel
C & G Staff Writer

EASTPOINTE — On Nov. 1, the council-approved, nonprofit Medstar will begin running ambulance service in the city, as Eastpointe joins a growing list of local communities that have opted for privatized emergency medical services, or EMS.

The decision to contract with Medstar — which also services Harper Woods, Grosse Pointe Farms, Clinton Township, Macomb Township, Chesterfield Township and Mount Clemens — came after a Sept. 18 meeting when council was presented with proposals from three companies.

It was a difficult decision for council, but in the end, the cost savings to the city and Medstar’s record of top-notch service in neighboring communities won them over.

“It’s a cost savings of almost three quarters of a million a year,” Duchane said. “With that kind of savings, we couldn’t afford not to look into it, and as I went over their proposal and their track records with other cities, it was obvious that they were a quality provider.”

Medstar service doesn’t cost the city anything,  and their track record is made up of run-time data, customer reviews and is topped with positive recommendations.

They require each ambulance in their fleet to meet standards of an eight-minute-or-less response time, 90 percent of the time.

“We don’t use averages,” said Colby Miller, CEO of Medstar. “Averages can highlight the truth but they can also hide the truth. If we measured in averages, actual response times could be anywhere between 0 to 16 minutes. This requires them to meet that eight minute or less response time on at least 90 percent of runs.”

To meet requests from the council, which is accustomed to the use of averages, Miller presented Medstar’s data to the city for two quarters in five cities in both formats.

During the first quarter of 2012, Medstar units in Mount Clemens had a compliance percentage of 99 percent, which means 99 percent of calls were responded to in 8 minutes or less. Their compliance percentage increased to 99.40 percent in the second quarter. Their average run time was 4 minutes and 13 seconds in the first quarter and 4 minutes and 4 seconds in the second quarter.

Data presented for Harper Woods, Clinton Township, Macomb Township and Chesterfield Township was similar with high rates of percentage compliance and short run-time averages. They collect data through GPS tracking and recording units in each ambulance that begin recording response times from the moment a call comes in.

Miller credited the speedy response times to their dispatch system and a fluid response model.

“We have a very high-tech dispatch system, which utilizes predictive demand modeling,” he said “It actually knows when a truck that is further away is actually closer because of traffic impedance at that time of day on each route (that) different units would have to take to respond to a call.”

He offered an example to explain how the models work: If their Eastpointe unit was just finishing a call in the 10 Mile and Hayes area in the northwest corner of the city when a call came in from the Eight Mile and Kelly area in the Southeast corner, and a Harper Woods unit could arrive there faster, that unit would be dispatched to the call, and the Eastpointe unit would be routed to a central location on the border between the cities until the run had been completed or another unit from one of the nearby hospitals was re-positioned to the area.

Predictive demand modeling analyzes the time it would take for each unit to respond to a call, and the fluid response model moves units around so that, even when a unit is already responding to a call, the area is still covered.

The fluid response model also requires Medstar’s emergency medical technicians and paramedics to work out of their ambulances, rather than from a station, so when a call comes in, they are already in the ambulance and ready to go. The model utilizes a data-based grid system that repositions ambulances throughout the day, based on call history at that time in that area and the current activity of other units.

“If Medstar covers your city with one truck, you’re really covered with 37 other trucks,” Miller said. “If the ambulance stationed there is called out on a run, another ambulance is going to be repositioned to Eastpointe, and if that ambulance responds to a call while the other ambulance is still on a call, another ambulance will be repositioned to cover the city if a third call comes in.”

Duchane said he knows some residents were unhappy about the decision to go with a private company, but the technology and data-driven formats utilized by Medstar will enhance ambulance service in the city.

“It’s a significant cost savings, but it also is a superior service: one that we could not offer residents at this time,” Duchane said.

In September, Nick Sage, president of the Eastpointe Professional Fire Fighters Association, said that the firefighters believed the current model was best, but the financial picture made it impossible going forward.

“Our current model, which we believe to be the best way to deliver emergency medical care to our residents, is no longer financially feasible and leaves our manpower resources spread too thin, too often, leaving the city and residents in a vulnerable position,” Sage told the council. He said that, with regular reviews of the privatized service, the union accepted the privatization.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Sara Kandel at skandel@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1030.

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