The impact of a discontinued ambulance shift was discussed at a Sept. 28 Dover City Council committee meeting. Although response times haven’t increased significantly with the change, the number of calls covered by surrounding areas has gone up.


    Whether a discontinued Dover ambulance shift is putting undue strain on surrounding areas and should be returned to service was debated in a Sept. 28 Legislative, Finance and Administration city council committee meeting.

    Committee members will return to the issue at their next meeting to see if any excess carryover from last year’s budget could support the $122,000 needed to re-implement the eight-hour shift.

    “It seems to me, it’s a no-brainer,” said Councilman Reuben Salters. “We need more ambulance service.”

    The city funded an extra eight-hour ambulance shift from July 2008 to February 2009, from midnight to 8 a.m., which was then switched to 3 to 11 p.m. for better utilization. The shift was cut this past July due to budget constraints.

    Colin Faulkner, director of Kent County Department of Public Safety, said whenever an ambulance from a surrounding area like Camden is called to Dover, it leaves a hole elsewhere. Just last week on a critical call, paramedics were waiting half an hour for ambulance to show up, he added. Paramedics are dispatched separately from an ambulance if the call is serious enough.

    “Therein lies their concern because in a month there really is a lot of time from start to finish where an ambulance can be out of their own service area,” Faulkner said.

    Under specific questioning from Salters on whether the shift needs to be added back, Faulkner replied that with 100 calls per month covered by others it would be helpful in peak hours. Peak ambulance call hours are from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

    Michael Scott Bundek, administrative officer for Kent County emergency communications, said it’s rare for Dover ambulances to be called to outside areas because the majority of Kent County calls are there. The city also is the only Kent County area that contracts its ambulance service; all other areas use volunteers or are partly volunteer, he said.

    In addition, Bundek described a recent situation when ambulances from Dover, Cheswold and Camden all were busy and it took 30 minutes to get an ambulance dispatched to The Hamlet subdivision where someone was having difficulty breathing.

    “It’s very difficult when you’re playing the shell game … trying to figure out who you’re going to send to cover that stuff,” he said.

    City Manager Tony DePrima pointed out that some of the calls going to outside municipalities are because those ambulances are already in the city from dropping people off at the hospital and are the closest available.

    He also explained his reasons for cutting the shift, which he said was one of the last cuts he made.

    The extra graveyard shift was added in 2008 after Cheswold and Camden volunteers complained about getting up in the middle of the night to take Dover calls. DePrima said now many of the departments have full-time coverage for night shifts, which led them to move the shift to 3 to 11 p.m. during more peak hours.

    By looking at Dover response times with and without the extra shift, he said he didn’t see any different patterns. However, DePrima added it would be good to see response times for some of the other ambulance companies like in Smyrna or Harrington as they re-examine the issue.

IN OTHER BUSINESS…

    The committee approved selling the home at 101 Jefferson Court, Dover, to Habitat for Humanity for $30,000.

    The West Dover townhouse property, sometimes known as the Haas house, was acquired by the city in 2008 and deemed unfit for habitation after hundreds of cats were found inside. The city spent $75,000 for demolition and environmental cleanup, but was not successful in selling the property for that amount and therefore is gifting the property to the nonprofit at a loss.

By the numbers
123: Number of Dover ambulance calls from 3 to 11 p.m. covered by surrounding areas in August 2009
75: Number of calls covered by surrounding areas from 3 to 11 p.m. in June 2009, prior to cutting an 8-hour ambulance shift
8:22: Average response time in minutes and seconds for approximately 1,600 Dover ambulance calls from January to August 2009
15: Average number of ambulance calls in Dover per day
50: Average number of minutes paramedics are on scene

  Email Jayne Gest at jayne.gest@doverpost.com.