The MMR emergency response in Manistee County improved as 2021 progressed


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of News Advocate’s Best Stories of the Year compilation (in no particular order) revisiting and recapping Manistee County’s biggest news from 2021.

In late 2020 and early 2021, the merger of the former North Flight EMS resulted in Saginaw-based Mobile Medical Response becoming the primary ambulance service in Manistee County.

The MMR transition has come with its fair share of hurdles like peak hospitalizations for COVID-19, turnover and staff shortages, and ambulance organization changes related to the detour for the M-55 bridge project.


At the Manistee County Public Safety meeting in February, a list of county leaders reported looming problems in the area with emergency response services that many said did not start with the merger in December, but had not yet improved with MMR at the helm.

Paul Owens, director of operations at MMR in Manistee County and former managing director of North Flight, said some aspects went well while others posed obstacles to overcome.

The move also coincided with the intersection of several events in the region: the start of a long M-55 bridge project and a detour that impacted ambulance routes, and the peak of COVID-hospitalizations. 19 in the region.

“One of the weak points of the (merger) setback still being 20/20… was when the COVID peak was there, which no one could predict,” Owens said. “With the peak of COVID at that point, as we all remember very well, we had a lot of frontline workers who were very anxious about working. Some people quit because of it (who) just didn’t want to risk their family (and) coming to work.

He said much of this was due to fear of COVID and unknown timelines for vaccinations after the fall peak.

“It was probably the most traumatic of (this) period,” Owens said. “Even though we had faced that, we saw a peak, a drop, and then I don’t think anyone predicted the peak that was going to happen again in the fall. From our perspective it was worse than the first peak (in the area).


At the September Public Safety Committee meeting, it was reported that approximately 12,000 paramedics and licensed paramedics across the state are expected to receive a flyer, as the ambulance service provider hopes to bring in the much needed personnel. in Manistee County and several neighbors in the region.

Manistee County is considered the “area of ​​greatest need” for mobile medical intervention services which covers the counties of Manistee, Grand Traverse and Wexford in this region, as well as a dozen others outside it. of the region.

Owens said at the Manistee County Public Safety Committee meeting in September that part of MMR’s plans to address staff shortages here were to use connection bonuses and stipends as incentives.

“It’s very expensive. We’re spending a lot of money on this to hopefully tackle our problem with being short,” Owens said.

Owens reported at the meeting that Manistee County had the fewest number of employees with the most job postings.

Owens unveiled 11 initiatives at the committee meeting that aim to alleviate the problems of the shortage of health workers that are desperately needed in the area and particularly in Manistee County.

The initiatives focus on such efforts as attracting new employees through bonuses, as well as mass mailings to licensed paramedics and paramedics in Michigan, and stipends for some.

“When we offer jobs we will increase our login bonus and if we hire a paramedic here they will get a login bonus of $ 7,500,” Owens said, adding that this is an increase of $ 6,000 compared to the original bonus. rate.

New full-time paramedics hired for MMR could also expect a registration bonus of $ 1,000.


In December, Jason Sopha, Supervisor of the Northwest Region of Mobile Medical Response, noted during the public safety meeting that in October, the MMR had changed the new configuration of the advanced and basic resuscitation vehicles in the county.

“If we only have one ALS truck in the county – so an ALS truck (and) a BLS truck – that ALS truck doesn’t come out of the county unless it’s a verified emergent transfer. “, he explained. “What this does is keep that ALS truck available in the county.”

Earlier this year, several people leading the first response, such as 911 and others, noted there were issues when the county was left without access to an advanced resuscitation ambulance while MMR transferred. patients outside of Manistee County.

Sopha said this new system has helped solve this problem.

He said there were times when MMR had to use the ALS truck for transfers.

“However, by working with the hospital, our sister organization with NorthFlight Aeromed, they have answered the call,” he said. “They actually had a huge increase in the amount of air travel from Manistee Hospital. This allows us to keep our ground units in the county available for further 911 calls or even to bring people home locally. “

He said that from January 1, the MMR would cover the county “at least five days a week” with two trucks staffed with advanced resuscitation workers. The other two days of the week would mean an advanced resuscitation ambulance and a basic resuscitation ambulance.

“This is a huge turnaround from a few months ago when we were having issues with staffing two trucks in general. We are definitely making progress, ”said Sopha.


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