Let’s Talk: Gateway Ambulance

Luke Babich
Sep 19, 2016 · 4 min read
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U City’s ambulance services are now provided by Gateway Ambulance. Previously, service was provided by our Fire Department.

Click here to read my accompanying analysis of the ambulance data: https://medium.com/@luke_babich/gateway-ambulance-see-the-data-ffc24d5f3ec0

Background

The conclusions you will read in this analysis are based on (1) data analysis conducted by a team of Stanford-trained data scientists, and even more importantly by (2) conversations about Gateway ambulance with as broad a range of individuals as possible, including the City Manager, Paulette Carr (a councilmember who opposed privatization), Greg Pace (a citizen consultant who supported it), the Gateway director and ambulance drivers, and our own Fire Chief.

Conclusions

1.) We needed to change our ambulance system to improve response times. Simple changes could improve public safety.

  • Our ambulances should be located closest to where people need them, not wherever we happened to have land for a fire station.
  • Our ambulance drivers should wait for calls inside the ambulance. That way when a resident calls they can start driving immediately. Before, drivers had to wait inside the fire station.

2.) The contract with Gateway achieved those changes. But because the contract was pushed through without a transparent democratic process, it cannot reflect our community’s values.

  • Many of the residents I speak with are deeply concerned about having a private company manage a public service, even a company that hires union workers. And research suggests they are right to be concerned.
  • Our city manager entered us into a 5-year contract without establishing clear reporting on performance for our citizens, and without clear mechanisms to let us leave the contract if Gateway fails.

3.) The pendulum politics on City Council hurt our city’s reputation but took us nowhere. This issue was used to further personal agendas, but the facts needed to make sense of it were distorted and left out.

The data shows that ambulance calls come around the clock, meaning that it is crucial for drivers to have a chance to rest. Click this link to see the data: https://medium.com/p/ffc24d5f3ec0
  • Our representatives got us lots of bad publicity. But they did not get us the facts. When I talked to our Fire Chief, I was surprised to learn that before the Gateway contract, our least-senior firefighters were assigned to drive the ambulances on exhausting 48-hour shifts.
  • I also learned that no U City firefighters lost their jobs. Three empty positions now no longer need to be filled, but no one was fired. The firefighters’ Union pushed back because this meant 3 fewer jobs for its members throughout the region, but no U. City firefighters lost their jobs. After a minor court dispute the city is on track to save an estimated half million dollars every year.
  • All this information matters to our residents, and it was left out of the conversation.
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Previously, we had to position our ambulances wherever we had land for a fire station. We needed reforms to give us flexibility to put our ambulances wherever they could respond to calls most quickly. Click here to see the data and learn more: https://medium.com/@luke_babich/ffc24d5f3ec0

Let’s talk about solutions

  1. Bringing the issue back into focus, it is clear that we needed to reform our ambulance service. The map above shows the location of ambulance calls in U City. We now have flexibility to place our ambulances wherever they are most effective, and keep improving their location in the future.
  2. We needed a true democratic process to represent all the values of our community. Trustworthy service, return on taxpayer dollars, and the intrinsic value of keeping service in-house all need to be balanced and brought into the conversation.
  3. We need to talk and work together. We have a vibrant, diverse community. That needs to be the focus of our policy-making, not personal political agendas.

Visit my site and join my mailing list: www.lukebabich.com

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