Thursday, February 12, 2015

E911 In Iron County Michigan

On January 12, 2015, I was awakened by my
spouse, Gloria, in the small hours of the morning,
“I feel terrible. I need to go to the hospital, please
call for an ambulance,” she said.

I did. But it took a very long time for the ambulance
to arrive. Investigation disclosed that the one ambulance
on duty was engaged in the transport of a patient out
of the county, and another crew had to be awakened in
order to put another ambulance into service.

Is this what passes as acceptable in Iron County in 2015?

As far as I know, there are three ambulances attached
to Aspirus/Northstar Hospital here in Iron County. It
should be standard practice that as soon as the on
duty ambulance is assigned to transport duty, another
should immediately be placed in service, no? How can
we have a 911 service in Iron County and then leave
gaps in the emergency services coverage backing it
up? This is unacceptable!

On June 10, 1969, my wife at that time, Earline,
was enroute to her mother’s home in Georgia. She
was involved in an auto accident, of her own making,
and was ejected from the car (seat belts were not
standard issue as yet). The state police were on
scene fairly quickly, and a call was made to the
nearest hospital to dispatch an ambulance. The time
of day was approximately 2PM, just past lunch. Then
began a mad hunt for the ambulance driver who was
not on station and could not be found. He had the keys
to the ambulance in his pocket. It took more than an
hour to find him, drunk and passed out at a girlfriend’s
apartment, and another hour or so to sober him up to
drive because he was, according to reports, the only
one trained and insured to drive the rig.

In the meantime our three daughters, aged 6, 4, and
2 were in the car watching as their mother died
alongside the road. I was at work at Farmingdale,
New York, at the time. So North Carolina of 1969
meets Iron County, Michigan, 2015 in the inability to
provide speedy emergency services. Fortunately this
time no one died. But that’s a disaster waiting to
happen, and now you've been warned that the
problem exists.

While they were getting the crew assembled in
January 12, 2015, I asked the 911 dispatcher if
she couldn't send me a police car so I could have
help getting Gloria into the car so I could take her
to the hospital. No assistance ever came, and all the
time Gloria, on blood thinners for atrial fib, was (as
I suspected) bleeding internally. No thanks to an
ineffective emergency system that’s at work here
in Iron County, Gloria survived the ordeal and will
be coming home from rehab and recovering at
ICMCF tomorrow, 13 February. I have only nice
things to write about ICMCF. If Iron County can
get that service so right, the capacity is there to
repeat such success in other essential services. So
what's keeping you from it, Iron County Board?

Why isn't the Iron County Board aware of this
apparently regular lapse of service here in Iron
County? What about someone bleeding to death
from an auto accident? The entire premise of
having a 911 service is to save time, and
property or lives, by having rapid response that
does not exist despite the County Board's
promise that such service is available.

When the Iron County Hospital was created, the
county operated that entity and provided ambulance
service. The hospital was spun off as a separate
not-for-profit entity, and the ambulance service
with it. So long as the hospital and ambulances
were operated on a not-for-profit basis, ambulance
service was available on a 24/7/365 basis. In this
lightly populated region with an aging population it
is no surprise that the hospital had to be turned
over to a for-profit entity, in this case Aspirus.
No one can blame Aspirus for trying to get costs
under control after years of the same sorts of bad
practices by the Board of Directors as has been
destroying local governments, practices that were
financially destroying the hospital to the tune of
perhaps a million dollars (or more) per year.

But emergency services is NOT a profit center,
nor can they be treated as one, while maintaining
the levels of service that are necessary in this aging
community. So since Aspirus/Northstar cannot
provide the ambulance service, then Iron County
needs to step up and take over the service once
again. I would hate to see Northstar and Iron
County as defendants in a wrongful death lawsuit,
especially once they have both been warned that
when you claim to fill the emergency services
niche, you better follow through or step aside to
allow someone else to provide the service.

This is not an item that can withstand delay.
Wait and someone, sooner or later, will
unnecessarily die. A profit vs. death case is
not going to be looked at favorably by any jury.

I attended the County Board meeting on
February 10, 2015 because the public comments
minutes was placed near the beginning of the
meeting. But that was illegally changed by the
Chair during the meeting (it should have been
changed when other aspects of the agenda were
modified.) I was not willing to sit through a long
meeting (it ended up being and hour and 45
minutes) as one of the three unpaid individuals

So congratulations to the County Board on two
fronts for failing to provide the best service to
those who elected them. First you fail to provide
an effective and necessary emergency services
while cashing in on the E911 taxes, income, and
governmental advantages of the paternalism it

Then you structure meetings in a way least
advantageous to those the meeting is supposed to
benefit. You’ve also taught me to avoid meetings
like the plague. I was hopeful that this county
board would be more prepared to benefit the
public, I had more important things to do than to
sit through a lengthy meeting that offered little to
interest me. As it was, I didn’t arrive home till
8 PM, and had I played the little games of “public
comment comes last” it would have been an
hour later yet.

So wake up, board members, and stop this failure
to provide emergency services promptly. Either
assure that we, the taxpayers, either have a timely
ambulance service provided by Aspirus/Northstar,
or provide the service yourselves, probably the
only way to assure compliance. This notification,
personally delivered to County offices tomorrow,
terminates any plausible deniability you may have
had about this problem.

Bill Vajk

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