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McDonald firefighters fill in gaps, learn to drive ambulance

EMS staff below state minimum due to COVID-19

McDONALD — Wanting to be proactive and have enough safety staff during the coronavirus pandemic, village firefighters are being trained as ambulance drivers.

COVID-19 has reduced emergency medical service personnel numbers due to constraints of sick leave, quarantine and minimum staffing at different EMS agencies.

Jim Petruzzi, assistant fire chief, said five firefighters in the department have received the ambulance driving training so the EMS personnel can be with the patients on any type of emergency call.

Fire Chief Todd Stitt recently sent a letter to Dr. Mark Smith of the Trumbull Regional Medical Center in Warren indicating the village fire department EMS had fallen below the state’s minimum staffing levels due to the current pandemic. Stitt indicated the village will be utilizing one certified EMS personnel and one certified firefighter to provide emergency medical services in the village and surrounding areas until staffing can resume at normal capacity.

“We have had firefighters work part-time shifts in situations where others have been sick or were unable to get someone else to work. There has been lower staffing with the mutual aid companies. This will cover our bases and make sure an ambulance is available for transport of a resident. We want to have this in place to be prepared,” Petruzzi said.

He said in normal circumstances all firefighters are trained to drive — but only if two other EMS personnel are on board the ambulance. The firefighter would drive and the EMS personnel would be in back of ambulance with the patient.

“With special circumstances during the pandemic the firefighters are now allowed to drive with just one additional EMS personnel,” Petruzzi said.

He said whether it is a COVID call or not, this will ensure there is a driver for the ambulance. Petruzzi said not all of the mutual aid companies may be available when needed.

“This plan would allow us to use our current staff of firefighters as drivers at $9.25 per hour. Because of the urgency in this, we need to pass this as an emergency motion should the situation arise in ambulance runs in cases that we need to handle,” Councilman Brian Fisher, chairman of the village council’s safety committee, said at the May 20 council meeting.

He said the firefighters already are on the village’s insurance.

In another matter, Councilman Sean Schmidt said the village has been making sure fire and police employees have the proper personal protective equipment when they make calls.

Police Chief Bill Woodley said the village has received donations from outside sources. “Right now we are stocked up with the items we need,” he said.

Woodley said in the past two months, with police needing to be protected, they’ve cut back on minor offenses such as people parking on streets. But they will once again being enforcing all ordinances starting Monday.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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