Top 10 2017: EMS funding in search of a solution
Editor's note: This story is part of a series recapping the top stories of 2017. Read the other top stories here.
As the year ends, the city of Hudson and its EMS partners are still looking at how to best fund St. Croix EMS services after the Hudson Common Council voted against a sale to HealthPartners and Hudson Hospital in June.
The sale would have transferred the service, and its cost, to HealthPartners, but 24 EMT jobs would have been eliminated. HealthPartners runs its EMS on a two-paramedic model, without EMTs. All four of the EMS partners said they are happy with service, but are looking for better funding.
After months of closed negotiations, the community reacted strongly to the idea of the sale, leading the council to vote against negotiations 5-1.
In October St. Croix EMS partners town of Hudson, town of Troy and village of North Hudson requested a new funding model in an attempt to make it more equitable.
"Figuring out exactly what equitable is is not an easy issue either but I don't think it's equitable the way it is now," said Ray Knapp, the town of Troy representative on the EMS commission.
The proposed 50/50 model would have the four partners pay based 50 percent on per capita and 50 percent on run calls. This model would have reduced the townships and village contribution, and raised the city contribution by $50,000. The plan failed to be adopted by the council, with four members voting against it.
Though the partners are disappointed the model failed, they are currently in a five-year contract for St. Croix EMS services.
"We just suck it up and pay the bill," said Tim Foster, the Town of Hudson representative on the EMS commission.
As townships, both town of Troy, who also contracts with River Falls for part of its area, and town of Hudson are required to have EMS services in place. That means if they chose to leave St. Croix EMS, they could have to find another service to contract.
The village of North Hudson, on the other hand, is allowed by state statute to go without an EMS service contract.
"If we would not renew our contract, it does not mean we would not have service from SCEMS," said Stan Wekkin, the village of North Hudson representative on the EMS Commission, "the user of the service would be billed differently, similar to the town of Warren."
With the village close at its levy limits and more costs coming as the city addresses EMS and fire space needs, Wekkin said North Hudson is exploring other options.
"With tax increases from the county and the schools many residents cannot afford to live here much longer," he said.
In the new year, St. Croix EMS will be implementing a new model proposed by staff as an alternative to the sale. The model will add another paramedic to the staff. Shifts will run with two paramedics, and two EMTS who will work from on-site rather than responding from home.
Hiring additional paramedics has been difficult, Knapp said, with the last calls getting one applicant each time.
In an effort to find more long-term solutions for financial and operational stability, the city has created the EMS Ad Hoc committee. Separate from the EMS commission, the ad hoc committee is comprised of council members, community members and St. Croix EMS representatives. Currently the committee is surveying staff to get more information on their views. The committee meets twice a month.
Both Knapp and Wekkin said they are watching to see what comes from the committee's efforts.
"We're in a wait and see mode to see what this ad hoc committee comes up with," Knapp said.