The island does not have a hospital or doctor at its disposal, which leaves a lot of patients with big bills.
PUT-IN-BAY, Ohio -- During the summer, Clevelanders flock to picturesque Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island for fun, food and relaxation.
The island does not have a hospital or doctor at its disposal.
It is staffed with 14 paramedics with at least one available around the clock, year round. They are also equipped with a medical aid center and a pair of fully equipped ambulances.
Peak time for 911 calls runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Reports show Put-in-Bay EMS respond to 85 percent of their roughly 600 calls per year during this span.
"We get all different types of calls here just like any other EMS," explained Manager Keith Kahler. "There's a big myth here that we only deal with intoxicated patients, and that's simply not true."
For serious injuries and immediate care, patients can be sent on a ferry with a paramedic to a nearby medical facility or by way of an air ambulance via the Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center Life Flight/Mobile Life near Toledo.
"If we are going to transport somebody, our first choice is going to be Life Flight because we don't want to go short on staff," Kahler admitted. "Since we only have four people working here on weekends and two people during the week, we don't have the luxury of transporting somebody (via ferry) and them being gone for an hour."
Mercy St. Vincent Life Flight has been in operation for 33 years and was the first medical helicopter program to serve Ohio and Michigan when it began in 1979.
"We're not a fly-by-night service that a lot of other helicopter services are," said Dr. Daniel Schwerin, medical director of Mercy St. Vincent Life Flight/Mobile Life. "I love what EMS is doing there on Put-in-Bay."
Schwerin oversees the unit and establishes protocols and training techniques on a yearly basis.
Hospitals officials confirm to WKYC-TV that 14 percent of all EMS calls from Put-in-Bay end up being flown to a nearby hospital.
Here is a breakdown (figures include both South Bass Island and Middle Bass Island):
Total people we treated for year: 692
- Of those, 104 were taken by helicopter off the islands (15 percent)
- The rest of the 588 people were either treated on the islands, taken off by ferry or refused treatment
People treated May through September: 621
- Of those, 88 were taken by helicopter off the islands (14 percent)
- The rest of the 533 people were either treated on the islands,taken off by ferry or refused treatment
Total people we treated for year: 603
- Of those, 84 were taken by helicopter off the islands (14 percent)
- The rest of the 519 people were either treated on the islands,taken off by ferry or refused treatment
People treated May through September: 561
- Of those, 79 were taken by helicopter off the islands (14 percent)
- The rest of the 482 people were either treated on the islands,taken off by ferry or refused treatment
A Channel 3 News Investigation recently found questionable uses for Life Flight from Put-in-Bay.
Reports from the past two summers show Life Flight being used for both life-threatening and nonlife-threatening cases.
The Put-in-Bay Police Department along with Ottawa County call logs show patients being flown off the island for intoxication, an anxiety attack, abdominal pain, fingers caught between two boats, allergic reaction and a thumb laceration.
"It's strictly a case-by-case basis. We make the determination by what we see, and sometimes we don't have that much choice because we don't have ferries running," Kahler said. "It's got to be pretty serious for us to call Life Flight".
Health care professionals visiting the island weighed in on the findings.
"That's silly," Cythnia Gaefke of Pittsburgh said. "I'm a nurse. Why wouldn't you just put in an urgent care and have them fixed there?"
Others focused on the money aspect of insurance premiums for the patients.
"The average Life Flight bill is $10,000," said nurse Brittany Shepherd of Willard. "You are wasting Life Flight needs to transport critical patients and giving patients a big bill for something that's unnecessary."
Bob Fredmonsky of Medina was knocked out after getting punched in the face last summer.
He received a $17,000 bill for a five-hour stay in a Toledo hospital.
"I thought it was ludicrous," Fredmonsky said. "It was over $17,000 with the hospital and everything else. Life Flight is just not right."
"I don't look at the dollars and cents of it as a medical director. I look at what is taking care of the patient and that they receive proper care," Schwerin, the hospital's medical director, said.
Follow WKYC's Tom Meyer, The Investigator on Twitter: @TomMeyerWKYC