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Cornelius News

Concerns raised about Medic’s proposed response changes

Feb. 27. By Dave Vieser. Response protocol changes recommended by Mecklenburg County Medic were not well received at the most recent Cornelius Town Board Meeting. Concern was voiced by town and fire officials over a change which would call on fire department units to reduce their use of lights and sirens en route to lower priority calls.

“Yes, I have concerns over the ‘no lights and sirens’ portion of this new response plan matrix,” said Cornelius Fire Chief Guerry Barbee. “I have highlighted traffic congestion in the north end of the county as well as the geographic remoteness of some areas in our town as reasons for our concern.”

To demonstrate this concern the chief noted that a MEDIC truck responding to a non-emergency call at Cornelius Town Hall from Huntersville via I-77 during rush hour could have a seriously delayed response time under the new plan.

“The peninsulas in our town (Torrence Chapel, Bethel Church, Jetton and Nantz Road) also pose a threat to response times due to the length of the roads. Jetton is almost four miles long so we could be looking at a 40 minute response time for a low priority, non-emergency response,” Barbee said.

The current system

Cornelius fire units—staffed by trained first responders—are regularly dispatched to medic calls with lights and sirens, and frequently arrive before the Medic ambulance.

“Our average response time was 5:28 in 2022 so yes, we typically arrive at EMS calls prior to Medic. Our First Responders (Fire Department) begin patient assessment, and provide patient care. When Medic arrives, they assume responsibility for patient care and we assist them,” the fire chief said

Why is the county proposing a change?

Chief Barbee

As Mecklenburg County grows, and the rate of non-emergency 911 calls grows with it, Medic is proposing an approach to prioritize patients with life-threatening emergencies.

The agency’s proposed response configuration will include changes to what type of resources go to calls, how they are dispatched (lights and sirens) and different response time targets for non-emergency calls.

The county Medic figures

Concern was also expressed by both Town Board and fire officials about the statistics used by Medic. “We have concerns regarding how MEDIC tracks response times as the entire north Meck is part of the North Zone, a zone which includes a significant portion of Charlotte,” Barbee said.

There are two other zones in the County, a Central Zone and a South Zone.

In fact, a request has been made for MEDIC to start tracking response times for Cornelius so that all parties will have a better understanding of whether response times are appropriate.

Davidson also concerned

Though the specific geographic distances may be different, town officials in Davidson are also concerned about the Medic changes.

At the February 28 meeting, their Town Board is expected to approve a resolution to send to Medic, which says, in part, “we have concerns about any impact this response reconfiguration could have on our fire department’s ability to provide services to our community, and concerns that EMS calls in Davidson will not have a Davidson FD response.”

When would this new plan go into effect?

The initial target date was March of this year. In the interim, Medic will be hosting one of six community meetings at the Northern Regional Recreation Center on Wednesday, April 5.

The meeting will be 6:30 – 7:30 pm at the Northern Regional Recreation Center, Community Room B, 18121 Old Statesville Road, Cornelius.