County Council denies RFC request for PPE

Submitted photo/RFC
Members of the Dorchester County Council voted 3-2 Jan. 5 to deny a request from Cambridge Rescue Fire Company for protective equipment. A crew from RFC is seen attacking a fire at 602 Race St. early Sunday morning.

CAMBRIDGE — A request from Cambridge Rescue Fire Company for personal protective equipment (PPE) from Dorchester County Emergency Medical Services was denied by the County Council on Jan. 5 by a vote of 3-2. Members voting against the request were Council President Jay Newcomb (District 1), Libby Nagel (District 5) and William Nichols (District 2).

Council Member Lenny Pfeffer (District 4) made the motion to approve the request. He was joined by Member Ricky Travers (District 3).
RFC asked for items from County stocks including 500 surgical masks, coveralls, face shields and goggles.

Opening the discussion before the vote, Ms. Nagel asked, “Do we know how many calls Rescue is going on to be able to use this equipment? Because they seem to be the only fire company coming back asking for stuff. If we give it to them this time, what’s going to stop them from coming back in a couple of weeks wanting more? We need to be worried about our own people. I’m not saying that Rescue Fire Company is not important, I’m saying that our EMS staff is the ones that are out here on the front lines every single day. We need to make sure that we have enough stuff, especially with things being on back order, we need to look out for our own people right now.”

Mr. Travers said, “Who do you think is backing up most of the people, most of our units?”
Ms. Nagel repeated her request for how many calls RFC responded to. Acting County Manager Donna Lane said, “Out of 23 medical calls in December, RFC responded to 11.”
RFC Chief Adam Pritchett said, “We probably ran about 10 in the month of January, and I could go on and on, but we run an average of about 300 per year, just medical calls.”
“Did you not just get $25,000?” Ms. Nagel asked the chief.
“Ms. Nagel, that $25,000 was to reimburse from lost funding from fundraising,” Chief Pritchett said. COVID restrictions have hit fire company’s fundraising activities, leading to state support to fill the gap last year.

“Other fire companies have had to use that money to cover theirselves for lost funding and all, also to purchase their PPE. I’m just concerned that Rescue seems to be the one coming back to the bank all the time, wanting PPE, when other fire companies aren’t coming back and asking for it,” Ms. Nagel said.
“I have a whole list of emails and what was presented since April on the scenario on how we were supposed to request reimbursement on PPE,” but with little explanation on how to handle it, Chief Pritchett said. “Now we’re here tonight discussing how we’re supposed to get additional PPE.”
“You are aware that our numbers are steadily going up every day?” Ms. Nagel asked him.

“That’s why we need more PPE,” Chief Pritchett replied.
Ms. Nagel asked if the City of Cambridge gives RFC any money. The chief said the municipal government does provide funds.
But the reimbursement money “was supposed to be allocated for all agencies through the COVID funding, not just DES,” Chief Pritchett said. “And might I add, 300 medical calls a years, that’s not the other 700 roughly around 1,000 calls a year that we run that we also need to wear a mask for, out in the public.”
Ms. Nagel asked how much supplies RFC would need “to just get by,” because, she said, some DES supplies were still not delivered. She said, “We don’t want anybody to be exposed no more than they have to. Would you be willing to take a little bit now, until we can get our supplies re-established?”

Chief Pritchett said, “Absolutely. I’m not asking for you to give me something you don’t have or to take away from anybody else, and I’m not looking to be treated any different. I’m just looking to be sure that we can protect everybody. And I’m not just asking for Rescue Fire Company. If Hurlock or Eldorado or anybody else in the county needs this, what do they need to go through to ask for more?”
An original purchase of supplies by the county, Mr. Pritchett said, allocated 500 masks to each local fire company. RFC’s supply has been depleted, he said.
Mr. Newcomb said records show that RFC received not only their 500 masks, but also bought an additional 1,000.
“That was at the start of April,” Chief Pritchett said.
Ms. Nagel offered 50 masks, 50 face shields and 15-20 gowns, saying, “Would that be enough to get you through for right now?”

“It’s not going to get us through, it’s going to help,” Chief Pritchett said, noting that there are 50 active members on the roster of RFC, who could consume those supplies in one call.
“Are all 50 people running calls?” Ms. Nagel asked.
“Yes, ma’am, not every day, but they randomly do, yes,” Chief Pritchett said.
Mr. Travers asked Ms. Lane about the composition of a shipment of supplies that had arrived that day, but a list of contents was not available at the meeting.
Before the vote on the original motion to fulfill the entire request from RFC, Mr. Travers amended it, saying if all the supplies were not available immediately, the request should be filled as soon as they are.

Mr. Newcomb said, “DES, they list what they can give them right now to get by, I guess based on their inventory.”
Mr. Pfeffer said, “This brings up something that I’ve been bringing up continuously since March and April. And that’s the fact that I have been asking, how are we sitting on supplies? The DES has been continuously reporting to the county manager that we have great sources, we can get stuff when we need it. I’ve seen when companies have approached us, with stuff, on hand, of masks and other PPE. And DES has turned it down. So, we are in the midst of the hardest time right now, of this pandemic…I’m really concerned that our DES administration has fallen by the wayside and not performed properly.”
Mr. Pfeffer said he believed the county manager should examine the process and make sure that career providers have all that is necessary to do their jobs safely.
“You’re saying you know our department has turned down PPE?” Mr. Newcomb asked.

“I’ve seen orders from MES, which is one of the main suppliers, and have offered thousands of masks and other items and our DES has said no,” Mr. Pfeffer replied. “We had a building built, just for PPE. Any time we could have put our hands on anything, we should have been purchasing it and stockpiling it. Now we’re getting into situations where we’re saying we’re low? Unacceptable.”
Mr. Newcomb said, “Where did you get your information from, that we turned it down? I don’t like hearsay, you got documentation?”
“Sure,” Mr. Pfeffer said. “I can get a copy of the MES voucher.”
After the measure for fulfilling RFC’s full request failed, Mr. Newcomb said, “I’m not going to put our employees on full jeopardy of not having full supplies.”

Ms. Nagel said, “I’ll make a motion to accommodate Rescue, by giving what DES says that they can accommodate with at this time.” The motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Newcomb told Chief Pritchett that, in the future, RFC should send requests for equipment to DES, which will then forward them to the council.