DAVISON — Fire Chief Brian Flewelling is asking the city council to reconsider its decision earlier this year to discontinue fire department medical runs after some changes in dispatching policies at Genesee County 911.
Flewelling asked the council at its May 11 meeting to look at the downward trend in medical runs since changes were made to the way such calls are dispatched.
Earlier this year, the council voted to end medical fire runs in the city after voters twice rejected millage requests to fund public safety. Medical runs continue in Davison and Richfield townships, but they are funded by special assessment increases voted on by their respective boards.
Flewelling’s appeal to the council focused on changes in policy since the city withdrew from medical calls. He said with changes by the county in what types of medical runs its dispatches fire department to and an 8-mile rule which further limits the range and classification of runs, the city should see a dramatic decrease in calls compared to where they were at the end of last year.
“This eliminates a lot of the of the calls that we really didn’t do much for,” said Flewelling. “Additionally, discussions are ongoing with Genesee County officials and EMS agencies regarding EMS posting location policies, although they are currently on hold due to the pandemic.”
He said since January more ambulances have been staged in and around Davison, meaning fewer medical runs for all three municipalities. Flewelling also attributed the reduction to the limiting of fire department responses to calls such as drownings, full arrest, entrapments, major motor vehicle accidents (planes, trains, etc.), allergic reaction, chest pain/trouble breathing, overdose and unresponsive patients.
Flewelling said the projected 2019-2020 fiscal year will see a 34 percent reduction in medical runs and is expected to be far better in the coming year.
“The updated dispatch policy along with additional EMS staging units in and around the city leads me to believe the downward trend in medical runs will continue,” he said. “Efforts will continue to reform the Genesee County EMS system.”
Flewelling also noted that of the three communities, the city of Davison represents the best chance of a positive outcome due to the proximity of its personnel and the location of fire station one.
“Do we have a better chance of saving someone’s life on Frances Road?” he asked. “Or Second Street?”
City Councilwoman Leigh LaForest said she thinks the people of Davison have spoken when they twice rejected the city’s ballot requests for a special assessment for public safety.
“One of the things I’m struggling with is now that we’ve put a public safety millage out for support and they’ve turned us down…we don’t have that supplemental income coming in and we as a city don’t have it in the budget if the numbers projected are to be higher than we’re anticipating,” she said. “And we’re almost already there, so how do we come up with funding to cover these medical calls – that’s what concerns me.”
Flewelling said the city shouldn’t have to come up with additional funding because the projected numbers fit in with the five-year average, which is what the Fire Authority uses for its budget. He said the spike in calls the community experienced in 2017-18 and 2018- 19, still didn’t effect the five-year run average.
“Can I say that for sure? I cannot, because these are projections based on what I’ve seen in policy and where the ambulances stage,” he said. “But there wouldn’t be a high need.”
Mayor Tim Bishop said he was interested in reviewing the numbers Flewelling was providing, but he said a decision to return to medical runs would require some consideration.
“The numbers, when it went down like it did, were startling when we made the change,” said Bishop. “So as far as getting back in, especially with the budget going on right this second, a lot of things for the people on council to juggle and take care of so I want to make sure everyone on here can see what you have to present with their eyes.”
City Manager Andrea Schroeder said she was concerned that if the city returned to paying for medical runs, the fire authority wouldn’t change the rules and put the city in a position where it would have to go along.
“Right now, it says we don’t run medical calls. I know it’s what we’ve done for years, obviously it didn’t work out for us anymore, financially,” she said. “My concern for city in the future is they’ll want to change that, and we’ll have to sign off on it. Has that been discussed?”
Flewelling said the changes still need to be codified in writing.
The council will receive copies of Flewelling’s research and proposed budget numbers. It is not known when the city will consider the chief’s recommendation. The 2020-21 budget is being drawn up now and is expected to be approved next month.