WATERFORD — Village trustees passed a resolution on Monday night urging the Racine County Communications Center to adopt a practice of dispatching the nearest available emergency medical unit, and requesting that all county communities west of Interstate 94 pass similar resolutions.
The move to closest-unit dispatch would mean when an emergency call comes in, dispatchers would send the closest available first responders, regardless of municipal borders. That model could help alleviate the dangers created by the disputes among the three Waterford-area fire agencies.
“The closest available EMS unit being dispatched to a call for EMS service is likely to be fastest to the scene of a call,” the resolution reads in part.
A Journal Times investigation published Sunday found that those disputes have repeatedly resulted in cases when citizens in need of medical care in Rochester and parts of the Town of Waterford have sometimes had to wait 20 minutes or more for care, despite the Waterford Fire Department having ambulances available to respond in mere minutes.
If the county dispatchers sent the closest units, it would take pressure off first responders in determining which units to call for aid.
“We’re trying to take the politics out of this and put the patient back in it,” Village President Don Houston said. “That person lying in the road doesn’t care what the name says on the side (of the ambulance).”
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The board also passed a resolution in support of a county-level study of fire service in the west-end communities. It was drafted in response to a letter from Rochester Village Administrator-Treasurer Betty Novy that asked the Village of Waterford to support a request for funding for the study from the county.
The study was originally proposed by Town of Norway officials, according to Novy’s letter. The study “could provide an unbiased look at things such as response times; how much equipment is needed; location of resources, etc. and develop recommendations towards the formation of a district,” Novy wrote.
Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave is supportive of a potential study.
“We are always willing to engage collaboratively to solve challenges in our region,” Delagrave said. “We are open to being a partner on solutions to this or any issue and bring municipalities together in order to best serve the residents of Racine County.”
Closest-unit dispatch was presented by the Wisconsin Policy Forum as an option for the county’s east-end municipalities late last month at a joint board meeting. Consolidating training, group purchasing and equipment sharing were all other possible options floated that would not require a full department merger.
Closest-unit dispatch would benefit an estimated 600 annual calls in eastern Racine County.