EMS discussion looking at communication, first responder issues
After a motion to end discussion on St. Croix EMS integration with HealthPartners at the EMS Commission failed, council member Tom McCormick, the city representative on the commission, told the Hudson Common Council on Monday, June 5 the process will continue until a final contract is ready for a vote.
As the city moves forward, it will work to address two main issues.
The first was the topic of a meeting on Thursday, June 1 with representatives from the city, county and local municipalities. St. Croix County Emergency Services Director Stephen T'Kach informed Lakeview EMS in a letter that if it takes over operation of St. Croix EMS, it will need to standardize its communication procedures with the county's. Currently, as a Minnesota and Allina-based operation, Lakeview uses a radio system that the county does not. EMS Manager Jon Muller said there is a night and day difference between the systems, and Lakeview cannot go back to the county one.
"We can't operate our services without it to the level that we operate daily," Muller said.
As it serves county areas, Lakeview already communicates with St. Croix County dispatch through phone calls. T'Kach's letter stated the county dispatch will stop these calls if Lakeview starts service in Hudson.
Muller said at the meeting he was surprised by the letter, as he hadn't received any complaints about the current system. He offered to provide the county with a radio for the system Lakeview uses.
"To me that would be the best solution," Muller said.
Muller said he wasn't aware of any other services in the area who had to meet the requirements specified in the letter.
T'Kach said the county requires the same for all EMS providers. Until now, T'Kach said Lakeview has been allowed to run on the other system because of the relatively low volume of calls it takes in the county. If it takes over St. Croix EMS services, that number will increase to about 2,200 calls annually.
"That's beyond what I would consider a safe margin to take a telephone call," T'Kach said.
The county is in the final stages of an $8 million radio upgrade, and T'Kach said the new system will be state of the art. The county will not install a radio for the Lakeview system, he said, because dispatchers don't have time to monitor all Allina calls.
"The county dispatches the way the county dispatches," T'Kach said.
Some dispatchers are already hesitant to call for Lakeview because they are not always prompt, T'Kach said. Muller said that was a lie, and Lakeview would be willing to provide all its data to prove it.
Bottom line, T'Kach said the county needs to ensure its residents are receiving the service they should. Mayor Rich O'Connor said if integration with Lakeview does happen, it will be serving county residents.
The county may need to look at the future communication going forward even if Lakeview doesn't integrate St. Croix EMS, T'Kach said.
At the council meeting Monday, O'Connor said he felt the city and county would be able to come to an agreement.
The second issue is first responders. McCormick said the EMS commission is forming a subcommittee of commission members, Muller and EMTs to address this issue.
Once these issues are addressed, O'Connor said the city will host a public hearing on the topic before a final vote.
The council also heard a presentation on budgeting options for EMS. The options looked at if the service was retained and paid for per capita as it's currently done, if costs were split between per call and per capita, if Village of North Hudson and Town of Hudson no longer used the service and if the city integrated with HealthPartners.
The first option leaves the city with about $45,000 in its operations budget, compared to the usual $175,000, City Administrator Devin Willi explained.
As costs rise, McCormick said Village of North Hudson and Town of Hudson are re-evaluating their participation. He said the second option, of changing funding from just per capita to a mix of per call and per capita, will be proposed at the commission soon.
With this second option, the city will have to pay more, as it has the most calls. This would be an increase of about $60,000 and would but the operations budget at a deficit of $13,000. If North Hudson and Town of Hudson left completely, it would cost an extra $50,000 for the city and would put the operation budget at a deficit of $6,375.
Integrating the service with HealthPartners would save the city $111,000 in EMS costs, bringing its operations budget to $308,325.