Study of Harford emergency medical services system underway

The study was first discussed by the county executive in his January state of the county address

A study of Harford County's emergency medical services system has begun as part of a review that is expected to lead to future changes in how medic units respond across the county.

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman informed leaders of the county's privately operated fire and EMS companies and their association via letter late last week that the county has retained the Center for Health and Homeland Security, or CHHS, at the University of Maryland at Baltimore to conduct this study.

CHHS will receive $20,000 for its work, which is expected to be completed in about three months, county government spokesperson Cindy Mumby said Tuesday. Funding for the study was in the Department of Emergency Services budget for the 2016 fiscal year, she said.

Mumby said the study is "phase I; there could be a Phase II."

Glassman announced in his January state of the county address that he would be bringing in an outside consultant to look at the EMS response and delivery system, explaining at the time: "On the public safety front, our other policy work will be an analysis of our emergency medical services delivery and organization. We will continue to study internally with our partners in the Foundation and Association, but I am also in the process of exploring partnerships that we can forge with external public policy institutes to assist us by providing expertise and making recommendations."

The reference to "the Foundation" is the Harford Fire & EMS Foundation, which operates a paid ambulance service serving the more densely populated areas of the county under the auspices of the Harford Fire and EMS Association, which represents the 12 independent volunteer fire and EMS companies. The foundation and association companies receive annual financial stipends from the county.

In his letter to the fire and EMS service, the full text of which is on Page A10 of today's edition, Glassman explained that the CHHS study "will build upon the work of the Association's special committee chaired by Dr. Tim Chizmar to evaluate and propose improvements to our current EMS system, which was completed last fall and provided some good baseline figures that this analysis can build upon. It will also dovetail with a separate internal assessment of EMS currently being headed up by our Director of Emergency Services Eddie Hopkins with input from the fire and EMS community."

Glassman also urged participation by any fire and EMS service leaders and personnel from whom interviews may be requested by the consultant, noting that such input will be a "key part" of the study.

"I hope that all who are asked to participate will feel free to provide their invaluable insight so that the researchers can get the full picture of how well EMS in Harford County functions," Glassman wrote.

The previous county administration retained a consultant in 2011-12 to review the operation of both fire and EMS services, one which Mumby characterized as "broader in scope that spoke to the need to an in-depth review."

"This a study into the actual needs of the county now and into the future," she said.

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