Citizens raise concerns to City Council over Fire Department misusing ambulances
Three Burleson residents raised concerns over the fire department's amount of non-emergency transports resulting in higher response times for emergency services at the city council meeting Monday
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BURLESON – Three Burleson residents spoke to the Burleson City Council at its meeting Monday at City Hall to address the fire department’s use of ambulances for non-emergency services.
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From October 1 to November 30, 118 of the Burleson Fire Department’s 725 transports were non-emergency (or interfacility) transports, according to assistant fire chief Casey Davis’s presentation to the city council. During that time, CareFlite ambulances completed 59 emergency transports of Burleson patients.
Residents Joe Grossman, Gentry Cotton and Bill Janusch raised concerns over the interfacility transfers resulting in higher response times for emergency services.
“You’re sending a paramedic who has two years of schooling, has training similar to an anesthesiologist, a respiratory therapist [and] has all the same capabilities as possible to take a non-emergency person to a non-emergency spot,” Grossman said at the meeting.
It took the Burleson Fire Department an average of four minutes and 17 seconds to arrive at an emergency scene during October and November, according to Davis’s presentation.
Janusch said he didn’t like how the fire department’s use of ambulances was presented inconsistently before it began offering the services because its misuse could put lives at stake. “Everybody’s life is important,” Janusch said. He added that he’s going to hold the fire department accountable.
Grossman, an Arlington Fire Department lieutenant, said he’s proud to live in Burleson knowing the fire department offers paramedic services since he understands the service’s value after a 20-year (and counting) career as a firefighter and paramedic. But he’s worried the Burleson Fire Department is prioritizing making money over saving lives by completing interfacility transfers, he said.
“There’s an old saying in the fire service that [says] ‘911s save lives, [but] transfers make money,’” Grossman said.
Councilmember Victoria Johnson doesn’t believe any councilmember supported the fire department offering ambulance services for monetary reasons and that ultimately the city council supported the initiative to care for citizens, she said at the meeting.
Johnson pointed out that the fire department tending to non-emergency situations unnecessarily isn’t advantageous for the city. She said it's important for the city to take care of its firefighters by not overextending them.
Gentry suggested the fire department stop interfacility transfers and reevaluate their resources before continuing.
Councilmember Adam Russell, who said he appreciates the fire department’s adaptability through this, suggested the fire department present updated transport data to the city council by the end of January.
Johnson shared Russell’s sentiment on the fire department’s adaptability.
“This program is still in its infancy stage, and I appreciate how aggressive we’re being in reviewing what is working,” Johnson said.
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Additional Notes on the city council meeting:
Deputy city manager Harlan Jefferson presented information on a revised capital-improvement plan to allow the city to fund the $42 million police-department building expansion ($5.6 million over budget) by removing a project on Wicker Hill and Greenridge Drive and using the city’s debt-service fund. The city manager’s office will present an official capital-improvement plan-amendment at a later meeting.
The city council denied 12 petitions to release property from Burleson’s extraterritorial jurisdiction in relation to Texas Senate Bill 2038, which allows residents within an area with a population of less than 200 people in a municipality’s extraterritorial jurisdiction to request the municipality to release the area from the extraterritorial jurisdiction.
The city council discussed naming Burleson’s new public safety complex after former mayor Ken Shetter per Mayor Pro Tem Dan McClendon’s suggestion. Every council member expressed support of this.
The city council approved ordinances to increase the city’s water and wastewater and roadway impact-fees. The roadway impact-fee ordinance will exempt industrial development in the Highpoint Business Park area, to continue to attract industrial development in the area, per McClendon’s suggestion.
The city council denied Spice Rack’s application to build an awning over its patio in Old Town to be consistent with its non-approval of Old Texas Brewing Company’s application for an awning even though Spice Rack already built the awning.