Men's Breakfast Report, September 2013
The Men’s Breakfast Group met Saturday, September 14 with Brian Davis, Freeport Fire and EMS chief. Brian is a native of Michigan. He joined the Michigan Department of Public Safety after a stint in the Marines. He spent some time on patrol but then transferred to criminal investigation. While he worked in criminal investigation he volunteered at a local fire department. He passed the civil service exam with the top score for the fire chief position. The position came open a few days before the exam results expired. He chose to take the position because his criminal investigation job required him to be on the road most of the time and he wanted to spend more time with his family. When he was recruited for the Freeport police chief position he and his wife decided that it would be a good change partially because they were tired of the snow in Michigan. His daughters were either in college or had graduated from college so children were not tying him to Michigan. He came to Texas about four years ago to take the fire chief job. He says that he may be the only person from Michigan in the area who did not work for Dow.
The Freeport fire department is the only department in the area that uses paid firemen and ambulance personnel. Even the volunteers are paid. There are three officers in the department; the chief, the emergency management coordinator and the ambulance service director. Brian is planning to introduce lieutenant positions for each shift so that employees will have a career path to advance on. There are five shifts with four employees on each. If an employee is out for illness, training or other reason the officers will fill in so even Brian spends considerable time driving an ambulance.
Most of the calls are for the ambulance service; about ten times as many as for fire. Each ambulance is staffed with a driver and an emergency medical technician. Usually patients needing to go to the hospital are taken to the Brazosport hospital. A Lifeflight helicopter will be called if they do not believe that the hospital can handle the case. One common case that the hospital cannot handle is stroke. If the patient has a stroke, Lifeflight is called. The hospital is working on using telemedicine to handle strokes so that the patients can avoid the expense and time delay of Lifeflight.
A patient transported by ambulance is presented with a bill that includes all the costs of the service including equipment and overhead costs and amounts to about $2,000 dollars. This is required by Medicare regulations. The city does not expect to get this amount so it prints in big letters on the bill “DO NOT PAY THIS BILL”. The city collects about $340 from Medicare. Similar amounts are collected from insurance companies. If the patient is a Freeport resident who makes contributions on his water bill no further payment is expected. If the patient is uninsured and poor the bill is just written off; there is no point in trying to collect it. If the patient is a visitor, like many of our Men’s Breakfast Members, he will receive a bill, but most of it will be covered by Medicare and supplemental insurance. The department is able to charge higher fees if the emergency medical technician has higher certification, so the city is getting all its technicians trained.
Much of the department’s equipment and capabilities were “on paper only” when Brian first came to the city. One fire truck was unusable and had grass growing up around it. Many of the volunteers had not responded to calls for over a year. Brian tightened up requirements for volunteers so they have to work minimum amounts per month. He also has updated equipment and replaced unusable equipment. One fire station has been closed and converted into city storage.
As usual the men had an interesting discussion and a good breakfast. The next meeting will be Saturday, October 12th with George Kidwell, chairman of Velasco Drainage District, as featured guest. This will be interesting because of the bond election November 5th.