PAINESVILLE, Ohio – When the emergency siren sounds at the Painesville Fire Department the firefighter/paramedics go running to help.
But they say not all of those calls turn out to be dire situations.
“We’ve responded to a call where all they needed was a Band-Aid. They cut their finger,” Fire Chief Mark Mlachak said. He said the loss of the hospital in Painesville to Concord has led to an increase in ambulance transports.
Painesville has also had an increase in overlapping calls.
“Which means we have two engines, two squads, two out at the same time,” he said. Mlahkak said handling the non-emergency calls can tie up crews.
“So my concern is what happens when the true emergency happens? The heart attacks, the house fire. Life threatening or threatening to someone’s property,” he said.
Officials say of the more than 2,000 calls to dispatch in the month September, 930 of them were non-emergencies.
“This is not about making money; this is not about saving money. This is about having emergency services available when the true emergencies happen,” he said.
Mlachak doesn’t want people to stop calling 911. He wants to create a task force with the hospital, Lake County Council on Aging and the Lake County Health District to let people know there may be other options for their problem than an ambulance ride.
“We are going to partner with a number of other social agencies that can help us, help our residents. We are not abandoning our residents.”
Painesville city officials said another problem seems to be the number of people repeatedly calling 911 for non-emergencies. They say four people in the city called 911 10 or more times this year.
They hope education about other options may reduce the number of these calls as well.