State board recognizes Wallingford Fire Department’s medical side

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WALLINGFORD — The Fire Department recently won a state award for its emergency medical services division, a recognition of its early COVID-19 vaccine clinics and a new service delivery model.

The Connecticut EMS Advisory Board’s Council of Regional Presidents, part of the state Office of Emergency Medical Services under the Department of Public Health, selected the Wallingford Fire Department as this year’s agency of the year for career service.

Bill Fitzmaurice, council chairperson, said in a statement that the department personnel’s “dedication and commitment to providing outstanding emergency medical services to your community is second to none.”

Fire officials accepted the award Wednesday at a ceremony at Foxwoods Resort Casino, after they were notified of the honor at the end of September.

Sam Wilson, deputy fire chief for EMS and training, said Monday that most of time the award goes to strictly EMS agencies.

“To be considered in the same class as … the professionals that have received it in the past, it's humbling to say the least,” he said.

Fire Chief Joseph Czentnar said Monday that the department’s crew of firefighter/paramedics and EMTs deserve most of the credit for the award, along with Wilson.

“We really do owe it to our people out in the field, our paramedics are EMTs,” he said. “They're doing the heavy lifting out there. Day in, day out, they are out there during COVID-19 pandemic, which were still in, but (they’re) very dedicated, very brave.”

There were a couple reasons why the Wallingford fire department stood out, including implementation of a new staffing and response model beginning in July 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the facilitation of COVID-19 clinics with the town Health Department.

Czentnar also said that with the new service model, which added 16 new EMT positions and reduced the number of firefighters, “people are watching us a little bit more, because we we went out on a limb, we're trying something new, and it's working.”

The change in response model came about because about 80 percent of call volume in Wallingford is for EMS, fire officials have said. About 50 percent of medical calls in Wallingford are for basic life support, which EMTs are trained to perform.

EMS Lt. Michael Krupinski has been “instrumental in the day-to-day implementation and quality assurance,” Czentnar said.

Wilson said that his crew of emergency response personnel “want to be the best EMS agency” they can be.

“They always want to provide more and more service,” Wilson said, “but it's not always about the quantity. It's about the quality of service that they're providing, so they're always looking for ways to improve.”

The fire department authorized a field training instructor program, with the help of Dr. Sean Caffyn from Hartford HealthCare, to allow Wallingford fire personnel to train new people.

“They went through coursework to learn how to educate,” Wilson said, “because not everybody learns the same way. Now we're able to tailor our own education programs, right to either new people, or people that need continuing education trying to improve their skills, or trying to improve their documentation, or their customer service. 

Emergency response personnel stepped up when the department was called upon by the town Health Director, Steve Civitelli, to help run the town-sponsored vaccine clinics for town employees and senior citizens.

“We ended up pretty much being one of the lead agencies on the vaccinations,” Wilson said, “and we're still helping them today, now with the boosters.”

There are five regions represented within the Connecticut EMS Advisory Board. The president of each of the regional EMS councils nominates an agency for the award, and then the presidents get together and vote.

In a Sept. 30 statement, Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. congratulated Czentnar and other staff for the "prestigious designation."

“We realize this past year has been very difficult due to the COVID-19 pandemic and we commend our EMS staff for their outstanding efforts to continue to provide vital services to our citizens,” Dickinson said.

LTakores@record-journal.com203-317-2212Twitter: @LCTakores

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