In a move that will provide Belmont residents with better medical care while adding to town coffers, the Belmont Board of Selectmen approved a Belmont Fire Department proposal Monday, Jan. 28, for the department's ambulance crews to provide Advanced Life Support services beginning in July.
Not only will residents who are injured or suffer from a serious medical condition receive quicker and greater care from Belmont Fire, Belmont Fire Department Chief David Frizzell said that projected revenues calculated by a study committee predicted that not only will the town's bottom line benefit from added fees, the service will pay for a new town ambulance in five years without digging into the town's Capital Budget.
The town's Fire Department responds to 1,500 ambulance calls annually (roughly three trips a day) with 1,200 resulting in residents being transported to area hospitals, according to Assistant Fire Chief Angus Davison who joined Frizzell before the Selectmen.
Currently, when the department's ambulance or fire truck arrives to treat a person at a medical call, the crew is trained only to administer Basic Life Support service provided by a state-certified Emergency Medical Technician.
If the incident requires greater care, a call goes out to a private ambulance service the town has under contract which is staffed by ALS-trained emergency medical technicians and paramedics.
ALS is the highest level of pre-hospital care which is administered by a state-certified EMT-Paramedic, who has 10 times the training as a basic EMT.
These paramedics, as Frizzell told the board, "can break skin": administer IV fluids, medications, perform intubations and start EKGs and cardiac monitoring. Typical of those responses include those residents in respiratory distress, severe trauma, those suffering heart attacks, strokes and diabetics.
As recent as 2009, the Selectmen has been hesitate to OK adding the service – which towns such as Watertown already provides – due to staggering large start-up costs needed for firefighters to undergo the significant training to bring personnel up to speed.
Since then, nine members of the Fire Department staff have gained enough experience to qualify as ALS EMTs, with some personnel already working part-time for ALS ambulance companies.
By approving the proposal, the end result for residents will be a quicker response by ALS crews as the Belmont Fire Department will be the department's first responders.
It is expected to cost the town just under $305,000 to implement the program in next fiscal year (falling to $230,500 in the second year) while revenue is expected to top $350,000.
Frizzell said plans are in place to set aside $50,000 annually for six years to purchase a new town ambulance without the need to request a capital budget expenditure.