By editorial board • 

Care centers should shoulder cost of unnecessary 911 calls

Money can speak louder than words.

Administrators of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, for a variety of reasons, are prone to calling paramedics every time a resident rolls out of bed the wrong way.

Fire Chief Rich Leipfert said he has unsuccessfully tried for four years to convince local care centers to reduce calls to emergency services. Since requests to administrators HAVEN’T provided relief, he asked the city council to create a financial incentive.

Leipfert told councilors Tuesday his department responded to more than 500 unnecessary medical calls to care centers last year, at a cost of $1.1 million. These calls hamper his department’s effectiveness in responding to genuine medical emergencies, he said.

The council responded Tuesday by authorizing a $1,500 fine for every frivolous call made by care centers.

In addition, each care center now needs to obtain a business license from the city that includes a $500 initial application fee, followed by annual renewals calculated at $200 per bed.

McMinnville firefighters, and their families by extension, feel overwhelmed by too few people available to respond to too many emergencies. If that seems insurmountable at times, maybe that’s because it truly is.

Even if the council had huge sums of additional funding for new personnel, McMinnville remains a medium-size city. So larger agencies in larger cities would continue to lure away firefighters and paramedics at a troubling rate. That leaves McMinnville with limited crews depending on relatively new hires.

Targeting the main source of unnecessary 911 calls feels justified. The nature of many care centers is changing. Medicaid requires more of them to take in additional challenging residents than the traditional senior population. Those issues need to be addressed nationally. But, locally, first responders need relief now.
Should the new fines fail to reduce the number of calls, the city stands to gain $750,000 of additional revenue per year.

Additionally, the new licenses will add about $220,000 dollars to the city’s general fund, according to current care center population numbers. The city should use that new funding strictly to provide relief to beleaguered first responders.

Care center administrators contacted by the News-Register this week were unaware of the new fines and fees.

We imagine the general public will consider it a cost of doing business for care centers who demand a massive amount of first responders’ time.

Perhaps if administrators worked matters out with Leipfert in the first place, the financial consequences now intact wouldn’t have been necessary.

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