St. Croix EMS workers receive deserving recognitionHudson Mayor Alan Burchill read a proclamation at the last City Council meeting that declared St. Croix EMS members to be “selfless professionals who put their own lives on hold, day after day, to respond to the emergency needs of others.”
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
Hudson Mayor Alan Burchill read a proclamation at the last City Council meeting that declared St. Croix EMS members to be “selfless professionals who put their own lives on hold, day after day, to respond to the emergency needs of others.”
They are dedicated to saving lives and limiting suffering, often under challenging circumstances, the mayor said in proclaiming May 16-22 Emergency medical Services Week in Hudson, as it was in communities across the nation.
The recognition of EMS workers was appreciated, and is deserved, St. Croix EMS Chief Eric Christensen said last week.
“These folks go day-in and day-out handling people’s medical emergencies,” Christensen said. “Sometimes there are social issues to deal with. It’s very stressful. You have someone’s life on the line. And a lot of times they don’t get the credit.”
St. Croix EMS has a roster of 55 emergency medical technicians and rescue technicians, the majority of whom are part-time, and many of whom receive just above minimum-wage compensation for their service.
The service’s 28 paid on-call EMTs work 12-hour shifts, for which they are paid $90 to $120, depending on their level of certification.
Eighteen of the ambulance service’s EMTs are trained at the paramedic level, but St. Croix EMS has just five full-time employees.
There are three full-time paramedics who earn an hourly wage beginning at $16.50, plus pension and health insurance benefits. Clerk Joanne Kenney also is full-time, as is Christensen.
In 2005, St. Croix EMS became licensed as an advanced life support service, allowing paramedics to diagnose and treat critically ill patients in the field with drugs and equipment normally reserved for use in emergency rooms.
At that time, under Christensen’s leadership, St. Croix EMS also established the system of having a paramedic in what is called a chase vehicle (a specially equipped Dodge Durango) provide the first response to medical emergencies. The paramedic is followed to the scene by an ambulance manned by two EMTs.
Currently, there are always four on-call EMTs on duty to staff two ambulances.
Most of the time, there are also two paramedics with chase vehicles on duty.
“It’s a job now. We’re just too busy,” Christensen said of the service that for the part-timers is sometimes referred to as volunteer work.
The EMTs often stay at the EMS quarters in the basement of City Hall during their shifts. It has a television lounge and two sleeping rooms for them.
They can stay at home if they can reach the ambulance at the Public Safety Building within four minutes.
The part-time paramedics work for an hourly wage, filling in the gaps in the schedule for the three full-time paramedics and Christensen, also a paramedic.
Christensen said the EMS staff is a diverse group, but has one common purpose — providing the best possible pre-hospital care for the sick and injured.
Most members also live in the community, which Christensen said gives them added incentive to do the best they can.
EMTs are instructed to remember that it may be their fifth call of the week involving someone with chest pain, but for the patient, it might be their first experience with it.
St. Croix EMS responded to 1,702 calls in 2010. The service goes on about 120 ambulance runs a months, which works out to more than four a day.
Some days are busier. The service has a third ambulance that can respond to emergencies if needed.
The unique part-time/full-time structure of St. Croix EMS allows it to deliver advanced life support service at one of the lowest per capita rates in Wisconsin.
St. Croix EMS’s per capita government support is $18.55 compared to a Wisconsin average of $55 for services with a similar population base.