Officials discuss city medical calls

The Guilfoyle logo is displayed on the side of one of the company’s ambulances. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

***A meeting scheduled for Tuesday morning for representatives from the city, Jefferson County and Guilfoyle to sort out whether county 911 dispatch can change the way its 911 dispatchers handle emergency medical calls for the city’s Fire Department has been postponed until Thursday. Below is the original story that previewed the meeting***

WATERTOWN — Representatives from the city, Jefferson County and Guilfoyle are meeting Tuesday to sort out whether county 911 dispatch can change the way its 911 dispatchers handle emergency medical calls for the city’s Fire Department.

By a 3-2 vote, council members last week passed a resolution that would result in the fire department not always joining Guilfoyle Ambulance on emergency calls.

Under the change, county dispatchers would follow Emergency Management Dispatch protocol to ask a caller a series of questions before determining the level of response.

Dispatchers automatically send out either the rescue truck or a fire engine, whichever is closest to the scene. Only the rescue truck would go out on the most serious of calls, but only once a dispatcher decides it should go.

“We’ll see how it all shakes out,” said Joseph Plummer, the county’s director of fire and emergency management.

It will be up to Mr. Plummer to sort out whether the county’s dispatchers can handle the change.

Scott A. Gray, board chairman of the Jefferson County Legislature, has said Mr. Plummer will determine whether the change will cost the county more money or lead to a change in dispatch staffing.

If it does, the county won’t make the change, Mr. Gray said last week.

Mr. Plummer and County Administrator Robert F. Hagemann III, City Manager Kenneth A. Mix, City Fire Chief Matthew Timerman and Guilfoyle Ambulance officials will meet Tuesday morning.

“We’ll sit down to discuss it,” Mr. Mix said.

During the discussion, the county will explain to the city how the dispatch system works, Mr. Plummer said.

Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith, who proposed the resolution earlier this month, said he has always thought that too many city Fire Department vehicles respond to emergency medical service calls.

The mayor has contended that the city Fire Department was treated differently by sending the rescue truck on all calls when only ambulances respond on calls in the other municipalities and are not joined by their fire departments.

Chief Timerman did not recommend the change and wanted to hold off on the decision to figure out its impact.

The city’s firefighters’ union opposes the change, saying it would reduce service to city residents and cause response times to increase.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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