Life after Medic 1

A Medic 1 ambulance is pictured  Thursday. The service is no longer in Hartford.

It’s been nearly a decade since Watervliet left Medic 1.

Since then, three neighboring municipalities – Hartford, Hartford Township and Watervliet Township – were part of an exodus from the Southwest Michigan emergency service provider over the last  year.

In 1988, the two townships and Hartford became owner members of Medic 1, based in Benton Township.

Hartford commissioners voted to opt-out of the city’s contract with Medic 1 in an August board meeting, citing several reasons why it was dissatisfied with the service. The contract ended Feb. 28. 

“Medic 1 has refused to station an ambulance in the city of Hartford on a regular basis for quicker response times,” the commission resolution stated.

The resolution further stated Medic 1 did not “streamline dispatch to be utilized for improved communication and dispatching.” And that “the ambulance be designated for the city of Hartford will not be used as a transfer ambulance.”

Medic 1 officials say they gave a quality level of service, while posting ambulances at a Watervliet Township location for quicker response times.

When Hartford voted to leave, Medic 1 looked to Hartford and Watervliet townships to pay for the subsidies Hartford was vacating. The cost proved to be too much, causing both townships to leave Medic 1.

In November, the Medic 1 Board of Directors voted to allow Hartford and Watervliet townships to leave by the end of February.

As a result of the reshuffle, Medic 1 now only serves Berrien County municipalities.

“We couldn’t continue ambulance service out of our north station without all three,” Pete Sinclair, the former Medic 1 board chairman, said in a Herald-Palladium article. “It is just not possible to do. When Hartford city pulled out it left us with the townships, and if they wanted to come up with the cost of losing the city, they could have stayed with us, but they weren’t interested.”

Like Watervliet, the three municipalities now use Pride Care Ambulance, based out of Portage, as its emergency responder. Pride Care also operates from a Coloma station.

Officials and representatives from the three departed municipalities declined comment when contacted by The Herald-Palladium.

However, Watervliet Mayor David Brinker can recall what went into the City Commission’s decision in 2009.

“It boiled down to a fee. We looked at Pride Care at that time,” Brinker said. “They offered the same services with no charges to be part of their organization. We had a tight general fund back then and made the move.”

Brinker, who was a commissioner at the time of the change, said they held public hearings as part of the process and made the switch after seeing no discontent.

“For Hartford’s situation, they felt they weren’t being covered adequately,” Brinker said. “My guess is (Hartford, Hartford Township and Watervliet Township) are going to get better response times. Our response time is now 3 to 7 minutes (with Pride Care). Back when we had Medic 1, a lot of them were 14 to 17 minutes. But that was 10 years ago.”

Contact: twittkowski@TheHP.com, 932-0358, Twitter: @TonyWittkowski