The 12 members of central Ohio's Metropolitan Emergency Communications Center recently approved more funding to increase the role of the center's medical director, Dr. Paul Zeeb.
"I've been serving as the center's medical director for five years now with my primary focus being on protocol, which permits them to practice," Zeeb said. "The chiefs saw an opportunity to expand my role with an increased focus on performance and improvement."
Zeeb said he has worked as a consultant to the MECC three to five hours per week, meeting with the fire chiefs monthly and with the emergency-medical service coordinators from each member agency every other month.
"Through this new agreement, I will average 20 hours a week (with the MECC)," Zeeb said. "Now, I know I will have certain dates of the week set aside for (the) MECC and other dates in my clinical schedule. I will be spending time where I'm needed and all agencies will see me."
Violet Township fire Chief John Eisel said the MECC would use Zeeb's time to improve current EMS-dispatching practices and expand on the center's successes.
Many of the MECC members have said the MECC has streamlined dispatching through the joint dispatching center in Gahanna and increased purchasing power for members.
Eisel said the MECC members have worked with Zeeb to streamline EMS services.
Zeeb's study of EMS operations could help improve health care for residents and make the members' individual EMS units more efficient, Eisel said.
Eisel said MECC members now transmit electrocardiogram results, which measure electrical activity in the heart, to emergency-room doctors who, based on the results, could send an ambulance to a cardiac catheterization lab for treatment instead of the emergency room.
"It improves outcomes as far as patients go," Eisel said. "We're just scratching the surface of our ability with EMS and what we have to offer."
Eisel said it could help prevent duplication of efforts and bring EMS care and hospital care more in line for better patient care.
"We'll have a lot more one-on-one time than we've ever had with a physician," said Plain Township Assistant Chief Jack Rupp. "Our goal, by having a physician (part-time on staff), is to overall improve our performance, our care, how we operate and the basic knowledge base that the paramedics have in the field."
The MECC was formed in 2004 to dispatch emergency calls for fire departments in Jefferson, Mifflin, Plain, Truro and Violet townships and the city of Whitehall.
Mifflin Township maintains liability for the dispatching center in Gahanna's Creekside Plaza, and the center's employees are considered to be Mifflin Township employees, though all the original partner governments contribute funding to operate the dispatching center.
In addition to the original five townships and Whitehall, the MECC has added the West Licking Joint Fire District, St. Albans Township and the villages of Granville, Hartford, Thurston and Utica to the agreement for Zeeb's part-time EMS program. None of the new additions to the EMS agreement use the MECC for dispatching services.
Eisel said all 12 members in the EMS program have approved resolutions to pay Zeeb's annual salary of $156,000. The five townships, Whitehall and the West Licking Joint Fire District will each pay $17,500, Granville will pay $8,500, Thurston will pay $3,500 and Hartford, St. Albans and Utica will pay $2,500 apiece.
Smaller fire departments pay based on run numbers and the size of each entity's budget, according to Michael Little, assistant fire chief for Violet Township.
Zeeb's increased role is expected to begin July 1. Because Zeeb will work only half of a calendar year, he will earn $78,000 for the remainder of 2014, Little said.
He will receive the full $156,000 in 2015, Little said.
Zeeb's pay for three to five hours per week was $28,000, Little said.
Zeeb is a partner in Emergency Services Inc. of Columbus, which provides physicians for emergency rooms at Mount Carmel East and West hospitals, the Diley Ridge Medical Center in southeast Columbus and the Mount Carmel Grove City Health Center.
He said his contract with the MECC would pay for his time and malpractice insurance.
Eisel said Violet Township would be responsible for overseeing the expanded EMS program, with all 12 members submitting funds to the township. Violet Township will budget for and pay Zeeb's salary, he said, similar to how Mifflin Township operates the dispatching center.