Equipment approved for newest ambulance in St. Clair Shores

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published January 11, 2019

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — Requests to outfit a new ambulance approved in December led to inquiries from City Council members as to why they weren’t notified earlier of single-source purchases.

According to documents provided in the packet sent to City Council members in advance of the Jan. 7 meeting, the companies suggested for a power cot and power load stretcher system and a cardiac monitor for an ambulance currently on order are the only companies that provide the exact model of the equipment that Fire Department officials say they need.

Purchasing the same equipment allows for compatibility between different ambulances in the fleet, said Fire Chief James Piper.

With the purchase of the power cot and power load stretcher system from Stryker, for example, it would mean that four of the department’s five ambulances would have the system, which is designed to reduce injuries and workload for firefighters.

“If one of our frontline trucks goes down today, we can use the power cot in one of our other ambulances,” Piper explained.

But Councilman John Caron said he would have appreciated an explanation of why the equipment being requested was being purchased from a sole source, “which does not conform to our purchasing policy.”

“Why don’t we include information in the packet when we know it’s going to be a violation of the policy?” he asked. “We do see this quite often.”

Caron said that he’d like the City Council to be notified 30 days in advance for sole-source purchases that do not include bids, “so we’re aware that something that is going to be coming before us doesn’t conform to the policy.”

He said that he agrees with the reason that the two purchases requested that night didn’t have other companies bidding, but he would have liked to have known it ahead of time, “so we can weigh in before they do the bulk of the work.”

“Your answer is legitimate; just notify us ahead of time,” agreed Mayor Kip Walby.

Councilwoman Candice Rusie pointed out that there are letters in the packet from both manufacturers stating that they are the sole providers of the products, and that the memo to the council says that the products are necessary to keep the ambulances uniform, but council members only receive the packets the Friday before a Monday meeting, so having a separate line of explanation would be helpful for them in deciding about sole-source purchases.

Piper said that, in the case of the stretchers, his goal is to have a power load system installed in all five ambulances so that even if one ambulance is broken, its power cot could be used on another ambulance while it is being repaired.

“What I don’t want is my crews to have to go back to that old way of loading the patient in,” he said.

In making his motion supporting the purchase of the stretcher systems, Councilman Ron Frederick pointed out that nothing was done incorrectly with the purchase request.

Council members unanimously approved the purchase of a Stryker power cot and power load system for the ambulance for $40,057, and the purchase of a LifePak15 monitor and defibrillator from Physio-Control for $27,193.

“It’s a replacement of the style that we currently have,” Piper said.

The department was able to get seven of the monitors in 2015 because of an Assistance to Firefighters grant, but it wants to make sure they don’t all need to be replaced at once. The department has four frontline monitors and three in reserve.

“We can’t count on replacing that many at once all the time. We’re trying to spread this out,” Piper said, adding that the oldest monitor would be placed in backup status.