MC Mayor’s Minute program for December
By Barb Pert Templeton
Tri-Hospital EMS recently celebrated its 38th year providing ambulance services in St. Clair County, covering 45 square miles from one side of the county to the other. The service continues to place ambulances in stations throughout the area so they can provide prompt response times to those in need.
Marine City Mayor Cheryl Vercammen had Ken Cummings, the President and CEO of Tri-Hospital EMS as her featured guest on her CVT Community Television program, Mayor’s Minute in December.
Cummings has spent 44 years in EMS and is a licensed paramedic in the state of Michigan. He took over as CEO of Tri-City in 1987.
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“I’ve really enjoyed, it’s been a great career and great organization to be a part of,” Cumming said.
A life-long resident of St. Clair County, Cummings said he’s happy to be working in the community where he grew.
Tri-Hospital EMS services, founded in 1983, provides ambulance service for most of St. Clair County in a joint venture with three area hospitals. There were some name changes at the hospitals over the years but today they are Port Huron Hospital, Lake Huron Medical Center, and Ascension River District Hospital. The hospitals are the three owners of the corporation while the EMS service remains a non-profit corporation governed by the hospitals.
“We provide ambulance services, both emergency and non-emergency ambulance service, to the citizens of St. Clair County and we also provide a number of educational programs, CPR, and medical training not only to our employees but the public as well,” Cummings said.
He said Tri-Hospital EMS also branched out about 15 years ago and became an answering service for physicians after hours and today they have about 100 clients and they even answer the switchboards for two of their supporting hospitals.
They have a total of 18 equipped and licensed ambulances and nine of them are staffed and equipped 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Typically, 11 ambulances are staffed and equipped Monday through Friday as that’s when the stronger call volume comes in but there are at least nine trucks on the road at all times.
The number of employees the service has today is including 90 clinical employees licensed to work on the ambulances. The service fields between 20,000 and 21,000 calls annually.
Here are a few of the questions Mayor Vercammen posed to CEO Cummings during their 60-minute interview:
Mayor Vercammen: When should a person call 911?
CEO Cummings: Anytime they are experiencing some symptoms they are not familiar with that may be causing them some difficulties in breathing or if they are unable to mediate the pain through some method, pain medication or perhaps moving the limb or area affected. For years we have seen the demand for ambulance service increase, so certainly we want to make sure that the public knows that when you feel there’s something wrong with your body that’s not normal, we would prefer that you call and let us come out and check you out. You don’t have to go to the hospital, that’s always your choice.
Mayor Vercammen: I think the general public thinks that once you make that phone call you’re going and you’re going to get into that ambulance for a ride.
CEO Cummings: And that’s absolutely not correct at all, and I would emphasize that it’s always your right whether you’re transported to the hospital or whether you seek medical treatment or not. The only time we rely on implied consent is if you are unconscious and unable to speak for yourself, we are really obligated by law to take you to a medical facility.
Mayor Vercammen: So how long does it usually take for an ambulance to arrive?
CEO Cummings: It varies, depends on where you are located in the county. Generally speaking, it takes four to seven minutes in most areas. From the time we get the call and we know there’s a need we can have a truck there usually within four to seven minutes and in the rural areas 11 to 12 minutes.
Mayor Vercammen: I think your response times, considering the vastness of the county, that’s pretty good.
CEO Cummings: One of the reasons we have those good response time is where we have those ambulances stationed. For example, trucks are stationed in Clay Township and Ira Township, if the Clay Township truck goes out on a call the Ira ambulances moves to a point somewhere halfway in between both those communities so we can still provide good response times to both communities.
Mayor Vercammen: I think the average person doesn’t realize that having an ambulance company is a business like any business, I don’t care if it’s a factory, if it’s a restaurant or if it’s a retail store your goods and services go up; yours is a different too because of the educational part of it all, you have to have trained professionals.
CEO Cummings: As an example of that, because I don’t think people realize how expensive ambulance service really is. We have nine ambulances on duty 24 hours a day, to support those nine ambulances, all the equipment, all the personnel costs, the insurance costs, all the supplies, and all the overhead costs is about $750,00 a year per station, so that’s times nine.
Mayor Vercammen: If the community doesn’t support additional funding what will happen to our ambulance service?
CEO Cummings: Well, if we could go to an election (millage), which we support as we believe we should give the community the opportunity to say yes, we support our ambulance service. If the voters didn’t want to support that our next course of action would be to go to the individual communities and say this is what we’re going to need to provide services to your community.
To view the entire interview online go to YouTube and click on CTV Community Television and click on the link to Mayor’s Minute for December.