Ohio county nurses seek to remove critical care transport limits amid staffing issues

Community Care Ambulance can only transfer patients with heart conditions to Cleveland, leading to a "devastating impact on patients" a labor representative said


Shelley Terry
Star Beacon

ASHTABULA, Ohio — Ashtabula County Medical Center nurses asked the City Council Monday to reconsider its limits on ambulance service for critical patients who need to be transported to Cleveland.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Anne Mueller, labor representative with the Ohio Nurses Association, said the restrictions are having "a devastating impact on patients" because Community Care Ambulance can only transfer patients with heart conditions.

Under a new restriction that took effect June 1, Community Care Ambulance can only transfer Ashtabula patients with heart conditions to Cleveland, according to Anne Mueller, labor representative with the Ohio Nurses Association.
Under a new restriction that took effect June 1, Community Care Ambulance can only transfer Ashtabula patients with heart conditions to Cleveland, according to Anne Mueller, labor representative with the Ohio Nurses Association. (Photo/Community Care Ambulance)

The new restriction took effect June 1, she said.

"The emergency room doctor and nurse know if a patient needs to be transferred and lots of times it's not a heart condition," she said.

ACMC can call the Cleveland Clinic for an ambulance, but it's at least three hours round trip, she said.

City Manager Jim Timonere said Community Care Ambulance only has one ambulance to serve the city and its first obligation is to the city.

"Unbeknownst to us, until our Fire Department EMS squad was continually getting pounded with calls, we were not aware ACMC and Community Care Ambulance were removing that squad from servicing the city and sending it elsewhere with no backfill," he said. "When we found out about this, we reminded Community Care of the contract and their obligation to our residents and their safety."

Mueller said city residents are very much among those patients needing transport by ambulance — and not just the patients with heart conditions.

Timonere said the city discovered they had been taking this ambulance out of service for some time, but only until recently when staffing issues have plagued everyone, that it became more noticeable. That's when township fire departments have had to pick up the slack.

Jill Koski, an ER nurse at ACMC, said all they want is for all critical care patients to be transported out in a timely fashion.

Timonere said when Community Care Ambulance is out on a call, the fire department is getting calls "all the time."

He said he also believes this situation is really between Community Care and ACMC, not the city.

"We will meet with the nurses and we will get it figured out," he said.

Council Vice President Michael Speelman thanked the nurses and the Ashtabula Fire Department for the excellent care he recently received after taking a nasty fall from his bicycle.

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(c)2022 the Star Beacon

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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