Paramedics switching stations in west Sussex

By Lynn R. Parks

Sussex County is moving its paramedic base from Blades to Bridgeville. That move has angered Seaford Mayor Dan Short. The two-person unit, currently stationed near the intersection of US 13 and Delaware 20, will move into the former state visitor’s center on US 13. That center is being remodeled for Troop 5 of the Delaware State Police. In addition, Sussex has added a new two-person paramedic unit, based at the Laurel fire department. Starting March 31, one paramedic is on duty in the Laurel area at all times. As soon as possible, and no later than July 1, a second paramedic will be on duty at all times. The Blades building will become home to a second Sussex supervisory unit. Currently, one supervisor is on duty in the county at all times. The new unit will mean that two supervisors will be on duty at all times, one in the eastern part of the county and the other in the western side. The new unit will be in place by May 1. The changes will give western Sussex five two-person paramedic units, on call round the clock. Before April 1, it had just two paramedic units. Glenn Luedtke, director of the Sussex County paramedic service, said that the changes were prompted by the county’s inability to answer all emergency calls. “We were missing calls toward Delmar, where the Delmar fire department was covering our calls,” he said. That meant additional charges to citizens, as Maryland fire departments, including Delmar’s, charge for any advanced life support services that are needed. Sussex County paramedics do not charge for their services.
“Toward the north, Kent County was covering Greenwood,” Luedtke added. “People in Delmar and Greenwood are Sussex County citizens, and I believe that they deserve Sussex County services.” The one unit that was based in Blades was the busiest unit in the county, Luedtke said, and had the highest response time. When the unit was busy, back-up was provided by paramedics based in Stockley and Lincoln. Short said that the city is drafting a letter to the county, complaining that it has received no official notification of the changes. “We have no real understanding of what is going on,” he said. “That is poor communication and poor public service.” Luedtke said that his office has not notified any towns of its plans. But he added that the county’s plan has been in the works since 2002. Both the Sussex County Fire Chief’s Association and the Sussex Volunteer Firemen’s Association were informed of the plan, and approved it in January 2003. The plan was approved by the Sussex County Council in June 2003. “The Seaford Volunteer Fire Department has known about the plan for a long time,” he said. Short added that moving the paramedic base from Seaford to Bridgeville does not make sense. “Delmar will have a base,” in the Delmar Volunteer Fire Department and run by the state of Maryland. “Laurel will have a base, Bridgeville will have a base and there will be none in Seaford. Does that make sense?” Luedtke said that having the county’s two units in Seaford and Laurel is “not effective,” as they are “too close together.” He admitted that it will take longer for paramedics to get to homes in Seaford from their Bridgeville base. “But it will still be within acceptable time parameters,” he said. “And most of the time, the paramedics are on the road, often at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford.” Luedtke said that demands on the county paramedics are increasing. “The county population is growing, and higher numbers in population means higher number of calls,” he said. “Plus, there is more traffic, which means that it is harder to get around.” County paramedics answered about 13,000 calls last year. Laurel mayor John Shwed said that he is pleased to have a permanent paramedic unit based in his town. “It will mean quicker response time in Laurel,” he said. The renovation of the former visitor’s center in Bridgeville is expected to be complete by April 2005. Total cost of the project is expected to be $3.6 million. The county is contributing $1.1 million to that cost.

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