Casey: Response to Post 53 Op Ed

The following is a response to Ron Hammer’s Op-Ed in the Dec. 20, 2012 Darien Times.

Hammer states that Post 53 “would never respond to misinformed criticism.” His long response to my questions means that I am well informed. Hammer states that that the decision to base paramedics in Darien “rests with the town.”

Hammer is trying to pass the buck. Post had no problem requesting additional funds from the town for CMED. Post should demand that paramedics be based in Darien. Why wouldn’t Posties demand the best emergency medical service for Darien?

Hammer states that Post “response times are amongst the best in the state.” The problem is that paramedics, if Darien based, could be getting to patients in the six minutes Hammer claims that it takes Post to arrive. When Post does arrive, it is often not up to the task and paramedics are needed. The problem is not what Post EMTs can do; it is what they don’t do because they can’t. EMTs are limited. Thus, Post needs paramedics.

Hammer goes on to say that paramedic response times are “within national standards.”

In fact, paramedic response times to Darien from Stamford do not meet Stamford’s standards. Stamford expanded the number of paramedic units when their response times exceeded 8 minutes. According to the EMS Commission, all districts within Darien have paramedic response times greater than 8 minutes.

Incredibly, Hammer describes the use of intercepts when patients need paramedics but none are available. The patient is driven to meet a paramedic en route to the hospital. This is a method which should be used in rural communities when the medevac helicopter is grounded. Intercepts have no place in Darien.

Hammer did not attempt to answer my questions of the commission’s finding that CMED had not improved operations. Hammer did not respond to my questioning the glaring disparities in response times within Darien with East Darien effectively being “red lined” for paramedic response. Hammer did not respond to how he feels when a Darien patient has to wait for paramedics from a remote Stamford location because the closest paramedic unit is out on a call in Stamford. Hammer did not answer these questions because he has no answers to them.

Hammer states the “town determined that an independent review would be useful” and this resulted in the EMS Commission being formed. In fact, this commission was anything but independent.

The medical director of Post is on the commission and has been listed on the Stamford Hospital web site as an emergency room physician.

This doctor and other commission members refused to allow me to ask questions and closed one meeting by going into executive session without explanation. The Board of Selectmen had to warn the commission to properly post their meetings and submit minutes on a timely basis.

Hammer finishes by stating that my letters are hurting the morale of Posties and calls particular attention to high school Posties.

He states that I insult high school Posties by saying that they and their parents believe the Post extracurricular activity will help their chances of college admission. I am sorry if Posties’ feelings are hurt by my questioning.

The issue is patient care and Post 53 morale must be a secondary consideration. Community service is considered a plus in college applications. I am not breaking new ground here.

In fact, I have no problem having high school students serving in auxiliary roles and justifiably taking credit for so doing.

However, providing a meaningful experience for young people should be a secondary, not primary, objective of an emergency medical response system. Darien’s current system does not meet the standard for emergency care. In Darien, the best trained medical responders get to a patient last.

Finally, this Christmas season was shattered by the tragedy in Newtown. If that horror had happened in Darien, would you parents want a well trained paramedic to respond or Post 53? After Newtown, a friend of mine said that we are living in a post 9/11 world yet we have a pre 9/11 emergency medical system. This is something for all of us in Darien to think about.

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