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UPDATE: St. Croix EMS partners considering options, may leave contracts

Hudson's partners in St. Croix EMS are considering their options as the time comes at the end of September to renew their five-year contract for the service.

Town of Hudson

The town of Hudson is in the process of looking at creating a contract with Lakeview Hospital EMS, Town Chair Jeff Johnson said.

According to a statement by Lakeview Hospital spokesperson Beverly Smith-Patterson, several communities have approached Lakeview EMS about providing ambulance services, but no contract discussions have taken place. 

"Through these informal discussions, we have listened to their concerns and are willing to explore how we might be able to help," Smith-Patterson said. 

Johnson said if they move forward then Lakeview, a part of HealthPartners, would have one or two ambulances stationed at Hudson Hospital, also a part of HealthPartners.

Johnson said the current and predicted costs with St. Croix EMS have become unsustainable for the township.

"We've got our backs against the wall with the levy," Johnson said.

Lakeview would operate service as a non profit, with no cost to the township, saving it the about $142,000 it pays for St. Croix EMS. With a contract, users would still have a resident rate, Johnson said.

"If we can get a private or nonprofit organization doing it, I don't think we would be doing our job if we turned that down if we had the opportunity to do it," Johnson said.

He said the township has to look at what's best for its people, and what it can afford.

Details of a contract, including first-responders, are still in the works. Johnson said first-responders are a must for the township.

"We wouldn't do it if we lost our first responders," he said.

Johnson said the town is working on a short deadline ahead of the September date.

"We're going into it with eyes wide open and we'll see what we can get," Johnson said.

If the Lakeview contract is approved, Johnson said his understanding is the town would switch services starting in the new year.

Village of North Hudson

The village of North Hudson held a public hearing on EMS services at its board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 7.

"Right now we need to think about making a decision by the end of September," Village President Stan Wekkin said.

Affordability is a main factor in the service consideration, as the village is closing in on its levy limits.

"When it comes down to nickels and dimes, which aren't nickels and dimes anymore for the village, we can't raise our levies," Wekkin said.

By state statute, villages with a population of less than 5,500 are not required to provide fire services, so the village of North Hudson does not have a contract with any service. If they are not in a contract, ambulances would still respond in accordance to their service area and the user would pay for the call.

North Hudson resident and St. Croix EMS paramedic Joe Elkin said an individual person calling for an ambulance would then be paying significantly more.

"To the rest of the population that may not be a big deal, because it's only affecting one person, but then when you're the person that needs the ambulance and you get a bill that's twice or three times higher than it ordinarily would have been," Elkin said.

Wekkin said the cost would not be as significant as two or three times more, and referenced Warren Township, which does not have an EMS contract.

"It's a bit, there's not question about it but it's a numbers thing," Wekkin said.

Elkin said he knows the village has other choices, like Lakeview in Stillwater, but he was concerns that some of those other services don't utilize first responders. Elkin said St. Croix EMS has first responders, like himself, residing in and responding from North Hudson, even on days off.

"There might a financial gain by going with another service but then are you going to foot the bill for first responders, are you just not going to have them?" Elkin said.

Back in October of 2017 the village proposed a 50/50 model for splitting the costs of EMS between the four partners - the village, the city of Hudson, town of Hudson and town of Troy. The proposed model would have the partners pay for the service based 50 percent on per capita and 50 percent on run calls.

The model would have reduced the village's and townships' contribution, bringing it down to what the village and townships said was a more equitable solution.

"If Hudson would have been interested in doing the 50 percent, 50 percent, that's a number we were comfortable working with," Wekkin said.

Hudson Common Council rejected the model 4-2.

Wekkin said he felt the city did not care if it had the village as a partner.

"I get, I don't know, just vibes from them that they're really not interested in us being a partner," he said.

The village board did not take action on EMS services.

Town of Troy

Town of Troy did not discuss the contract at its recent meeting.

Rebecca Mariscal

Rebecca Mariscal joined the Hudson Star Observer as a reporter in 2016. She graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a degree in communication and journalism. 

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