Fire Chiefs Support ‘Closest’ Air Ambulance

During a meeting of the Kosciusko County Fire Association on Thursday, the discussion centered around a recent announcement by Multi-Township EMS that Lutheran Air is to be the first called medical helicopter in the event of traumatic injuries. (See story)

Still without input from Kosciusko Community Hospital or Lutheran Air, both of which were contacted for this story, county fire chiefs are throwing in their support for Kevin McSherry, Burket Fire Department chief and president of the Kosciusko County Fire Association, who spoke out against the MTEMS announcement made last week.

“The chiefs all supported my feelings of freedom of choice. No one had ill feeling toward KCH or the Lutheran Network or Lutheran Air,” McSherry said after the Thursday meeting. “We felt this should have been talked about with the fire service of Kosciusko County before it is written. MTEMS is not the only agency to be considered. Sometimes we feel the 350 guys in the red trucks are used and forgotten, but they always call for help. It’s the people we are here to help.”

Michael Wilson, Kosciusko County coroner and chief of Leesburg/Plain Township Fire Department, also publicly supports the freedom of choice. In a letter sent to McSherry and then ultimately sent to all fire chiefs in Kosciusko County, Wilson wrote, “In reference to the current issue of air medical helicopter response controversy, I respectfully support your comments in the recent article referenced by Stacey Page.

“As chief of a department, along with my past association with Warsaw–Wayne Fire Territory and detail with assisting medical personnel at scenes of traumatic incidents, I agree that the request and usage of the closest air medical ambulance is of the essence. The public, the citizens who travel through, live in and work in our community deserve the best and quickest service available. I and our Command Staff have the obligation to provide that service. Our goal is to request that medical ambulance from first the closest available service, being the Samaritan air medical ambulance from Rochester.”

Wilson also noted, “We have no issues with the second call, being to the air medical ambulance available, Samaritan at Parkview, Lutheran Air at Lutheran, or Med Flight air medical ambulance from South Bend International Airport. It only makes ethical sense, to have the air medical ambulance that can arrive quickest, be the primary call.

“In the fire service, we don’t call for the farthest away mutual aid department when we need help, you call the closest. It should be the direction of the 13 fire departments, to request the closest air medical ambulance to the scene. It is currently the assignment of those fire departments to establish a safe and secure landing zone for that air medical ambulance, thus being said, it should be dispatch calling the closest, and the fire departments associated with the territory/scene in determination of who is called.  I fear that certain medical personnel will call the one of choice, not of closeness in the future. This is not a positive approach.”

Mark Pepple, who serves as clinical director for MTEMS and sent out the email to fire chiefs last week noting the “first call” will now and in the future be made to Lutheran Air, ultimately declined our offer for an interview for this story.

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