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Deal lets residents sleep a little easier

Numbers show that members of Steubenville City Council made a wise move Aug. 4 when they voted to contract with Wintersville Fire and Rescue to provide overnight ambulance service in the city.

The decision, which came on a 7-0 emergency vote, was the best option for council to take after the city learned that its current provider, privately run Ambulance Service Inc., had notified City Manager Jim Mavromatis that temporary staffing issues would prevent it from being able to cover nighttime calls during certain periods.

If council had not acted, that could have left city residents who might have needed to reach out for emergency medical help between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. in a precarious position.

Council learned Tuesday that Wintersville crews already have covered 14 shifts and answered 126 calls in the city. That was in addition to the 110 first-responder calls done with fire equipment.

Those crews likely will see more service in the city, as it was reported that ASI would only be able to staff one night during the most recent seven-day period.

Questions about emergency medical services in the city have been an issue for many months now. Personnel issues at Ambulance Service have forced the city to increasingly rely on mutual aid assistance from neighboring communities. That has created an issue where those who faced critical medical situations might have to wait longer for help to arrive. It also has led officials with those other services to raise concerns about the number of times their equipment has been needed in the city — and created questions about the cost to taxpayers who are supporting those services, as well as raising the possibility that crews might not be able to help residents of those areas while they are working in Steubenville.

City officials already have taken steps to address those issues. They voted earlier this year to establish their own paramedic service through the fire department. The two ambulances that have been purchased to make that a reality have been delivered, and fire Chief Carlo Capaldi said Tuesday that those vehicles will be placed in service as soon as they are equipped.

ASI, meanwhile, said in a statement issued Aug. 7 that “factually incorrect information” was released during the Aug. 4 meeting and called the decision “another step toward a calculated and concerted effort to undermine private EMS services for the county for the benefit of public services, in order to justify the increased use of levies to benefit the chosen few at the expense of many local taxpayers.”

Steubenville and the D’Anniballe family, which owns ASI, have a long history of working together. ASI, as the Aug. 7 letter pointed out, has been operating in the city for 56 years. The hope is that city officials and ASI can settle their differences in a way that is beneficial to all parties in the issue.

In the meantime, city residents must be assured EMS service will be available when needed.

The contract with Wintersville Fire and Rescue makes sure that service will be able to able to pay for the personnel needed to designate one of its ambulances to answer calls in Steubenville during the overnight hours. That contingency means those paramedics will be working on overtime, and the cost to the city will be around $850 per shift. But it ensures there’s not a gap in coverage for Steubenville residents — and makes sure those who live in Wintersville’s coverage area have adequate access if emergency services are needed.

City Council made a good decision when it voted to contract with Wintersville — and is taking the steps needed to ensure city residents are protected.

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