911 Consortium recognizes exclusive EMS service contracts



GENESEE COUNTY — Communities that have signed exclusive contracts with EMS providers will be allowed to resume those agreements, per a recent decision from the Genesee County 911 Consortium Board.

At a Sept. 14 executive board meeting, the Consortium Board narrowly passed a measure to recognize contracts signed between EMS provider Medstar and several local municipalities. The motion, which passed 12-10 with one abstention, also contained a provision that will continue the county’s “closest, most appropriate” EMS dispatch procedure for all jurisdictions.

Cites and townships that have entered into agreements with Medstar in the Genesee County View coverage area include Davison, Davison Township, Richfield Township, Burton, Atlas Township and Goodrich.

Under current Genesee County Emergency Dispatch policy, EMS units can be dispatched to anywhere in the county if they’re the closest and most appropriate unit available to respond to a medical emergency. But officials in several local communities—particularly in more rural or lightly populated areas—have said that the policy sometimes contributes to longer EMS response times for their residents.

Additionally, the county is facing a growing ambulance shortage and fewer EMT and EMS employees. According to a report from the Genesee County Medical Control Authority, which oversees 911, there have been over a dozen instances where the county has had three or fewer available EMS units to respond to a 911 call since last Halloween.

“From the perspective of Atlas Township, we have suffered from poor ambulance response for transport,” said Atlas Township Supervisor Shirley Kautman-Jones. “Our issue is just getting someone to come and take care of the people. If you have two people in an accident on M-15, (911 dispatch) has to make the decision of who is the most critical and who can go in the first ambulance that shows up and pray to God that a second ambulance shows up.”

Kautman-Jones said that her township’s agreement with Medstar is economically beneficial to the company because they can receive most of the calls in Atlas Township, while residents in turn will receive quicker EMS response times.

911 Consortium Attorney Anthony Chubb, along with several 911 Consortium members, raised concerns that the exclusive EMS contacts could put municipalities and the Consortium itself at legal risk.

“Let’s say that Flint Township, for example, has an exclusive agreement with an EMS company, and thereafter you’re at the Genesee Valley Mall and you’re having a heart attack and you call 911,” Chubb said. “(911) would pick up the phone…and notice that the township has an exclusive partnership with a certain company. Even though there’s an MMR ambulance sitting in the parking lot…911 would be sending one (from the provider that has an exclusive contract) that’s at Corunna Road, adding another six minutes onto the response time.

“A lot can happen in those six minutes,” Chubb added. “If the result was a death, I can see that some attorneys would find that as alleged gross negligence and bring claims against the Consortium.”

From a liability standpoint, Chubb said that the Consortium can allow the exclusive EMS contracts, but only so long as the county still follows the closest, most appropriate policy.

Chubb said that he will have to review each exclusive EMS contract and negotiate with municipalities that have entered into agreements with Medstar to ensure that the Consortium and its member communities are legally protected.

Interim Genesee County 911 Dispatch Director Tim Jones said that his staff will also need to implement a new computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system that can distinguish between communities that have exclusive EMS services and those that don’t.