CareFlite issues draw capacity crowd

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By Charles D. Hatfield Jr. / The Ellis County Press

FERRIS – In a heated and fiery response to City Manager Bill Jordan’s letter to CareFlite notifying them of a breach of contract, Sherie Chapman, former EMT, firefighter and current healthcare professional said, “Ferris has a large population of elderly and children.

“In the event of a heart attack or trauma or any medical emergency the ‘golden hour’ starts the minute it happens. That’s why it is imperative to get the quickest care started immediately.

“If you wait on an ambulance coming from Waxahachie, Red Oak or Ennis, you’re losing at least 20 minutes of that hour.”

Also speaking during the public comment session at Ferris City Council meeting Monday, was former Ferris Mayor Billy D. Dunn.

“Mr. Mayor, council members, department heads and city staff, thank you for the opportunity to speak regarding our City’s Ambulance Service. Wednesday I received this card in the mail, instinctively, my past experiences kicked in.

“Having served eight years as Mayor of this City, six years as a Council member, and in between as President of the Ferris School Board, I knew something was wrong in River City, pun intended.

“I am very concerned about the possibility of losing CareFlite. I know how important it is to this city, and it’s citizens to have a fully staffed and permanently based ambulance in our city, that we can afford.

“For this reason, I began contacting both past and present council members that I knew, to find out what was going on. I discovered that a letter from the City of Ferris to CareFlite dated July 19,2017, stated that the City was going to declare a Major Default in the City’s contract with CareFlite if a list of items in the letter was not corrected by CareFlite with in fourteen days. That’s when I understood what prompted the card from CareFlite.

“I had a copy of the contract between the city and CareFlite since I was on the council when it was ratified. I compared the City’s allegations against CareFlite to the City’s Contract with Careflite, and those allegations leaked like a sieve. I have no way of knowing who brought these allegations to the attention of the Mayor and City Manager, but I would suspect it was the acting part-time Ferris Fire Chief who is a full time employee of the City of Red Oak fire department as a Captain.

“CareFlite has served this City and Fire District #5 for seven years now and this is the first time I have ever heard any Mayor, City Manager or Fire Chief ever question CareFlite’s performance. These actions suggest to me that maybe a Captain wishes to become a Chief. That is not my call, it’s yours, but please don’t let him use CareFlite as his stepping stone.

“There are also other issues I discovered, but this is not the time or the place for that discussion.

“In closing, thank you again for the opportunity to address the Council and thank you for being willing to serve our community, for I know from experience just how time consuming and difficult that service can be. Ferris needs CareFlite.”

Also addressing the council was James C. Swartz, president & CEO of CareFlite.

“Thank you for allowing to speak with you. I am providing the city secretary with a copy of my remarks so that they are included in the minutes of this meeting and a letter with our written objections to the agenda item of holding a closed hearing about CareFlite.

“I last spoke with you during your January 17 meeting when the Council affirmed CareFlite’s contract and rejected Management’s proposal to give a six month notice of termination. You each have a copy of my letter of July 28th to Mr. Jordan. I don’t know why management would accuse CareFlite of violating a duty that is not in the contract.

“The agenda item about CareFlite for tonight’s meeting appears to violate the Texas laws on open meetings.

“Whoever authorized this agenda item is either unaware of the law or has chosen to ignore it. Either reason is inappropriate at best and a risk to the City, the Council and its individual members.

“CareFlite requests that any meeting concerning CareFlite be held in public. We have nothing to hide. What possible reason could there be for trying to prevent the public from observing the deliberations?

“Notwithstanding all of that, the issue before you is not one of legal fine points. It is one of life and death. Why do I say that?

“Because CareFlite has responded to 5,866 calls since October 1,2010 of which 84-percent or 4,919 were potentially life threatening. This record of response and service provided by CareFlite’s Ferris crews is outstanding. Is there anyone in this room who wants to send these heroes away so you can wait for an ambulance to come from Waxahachie,

“Red Oak, Ennis or Palmer? Why would any official of any town risk the lives of its citizens by even entertaining the thought of removing its locally based ambulance service.

“CareFlite is a 501 c3 not for profit. It is certainly not for profit in Ferris. But CareFlite sees its responsibility to its patients as extending beyond the care rendered during the call.

“That’s why it has a membership program that has saved families here approximately $1.7 million. It sees its responsibility to the community as more than a financial arrangement.

“It is a public trust. This trust creates an obligation to explain why this continuing attempt to drive us out through bullying and false accusations is a terrible idea that would have terrible results.

“The explanation given at your meeting in January was the annual cost which is less than $100 per day out of a budget of about $3.2 million. That’s about 1.1 percent.

“Obviously, those who favor terminating the contract through any means, legal or not, appear to have an agenda.

“How is that in the best interests of the residents of Ferris? Perhaps it is because they don’t live here. Those who do and have the need for ambulance service when minutes can seem like hours... ask them if they want CareFlite’s service in Ferris terminated so they can wait longer for help and hope.”

Carl Bennett said CareFlite was there when he needed them and was opposed to the city “getting rid of CareFlite.”

In addition, Robert Saunder of AMR said, “No one has spoken to AMR” and he accused CareFlite of using scare tactics. Saunder said AMR has 12 trucks in Ellis County. AMR is a for-profit company

Following an executive session regarding CareFlite, Councilman Bobby Lindsey said there appeared to be a lack of communications, and said he thought the matter could be resolved if everyone sat down together and discussed it.

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