EMS debate turns heated as accusations fly
Though the EMS ad hoc committee did not meet Monday, Feb. 25 the topic still brought tense debate at the Hudson Common Council meeting.
Council Member Joyce Hall thanked the mayor for rescheduling the EMS meeting and its public comment section to a later date, but expressed concern with how the process has played out with EMS.
Hall said there seemed to be a coordinated effort to lead the city to contract with Lakeview EMS. She said a town of Hudson supervisor told several people that Mayor Rich O'Connor approached the town and asked it to contract with Lakeview EMS.
The announcement that Lakeview EMS would take all transfers out of Hudson Hospital seemed strategically timed, Hall said, coming after EMS proposals were already submitted.
Hall said Lakeview EMS is not licensed to take critical care transfers in the state, and has not submitted an updated operation plan for the town of Hudson, as required by the state.
"Why aren't they playing by the rules?" Hall said.
Lakeview EMS Director Jon Muller addressed the question of certification at the last EMS meeting on Feb. 4. He said the service will be certified once it updates its operations plan, which it is waiting to do until the city decides on a direction.
The city attorney has been asked to research the issue of certification.
Hall said the city is not required to accept any of the two remaining proposals from Lakeview or St. Croix EMS. She said the city should look to the ambulance services in New Richmond, Baldwin and River Falls that are doing well with community support, and apply their model to the service.
O'Connor reacted strongly to Hall's accusation, raising his voice as he told Hall she had not asked him the question directly.
"The answers is no, I did not do that," O'Connor said.
O'Connor said he was talking with former town of Hudson Chair Jeff Johnson a year ago when he asked Johnson if he had ever read the Lakeview contract first considered by the city in 2017. After Johnson read it, O'Connor said Johnson told him he couldn't believe the council did not take the offer.
That was the end of the conversation, O'Connor said, until a town of Hudson constituent made comments at an EMS ad hoc committee meeting complaining about the "old white guys" running the town. Johnson told O'Connor he was so mad that he called Muller, and they were having a conversation.
Hall said her goal is to keep the process open.
"Open to the extent that you start throwing accusations out without even talking to me," O'Connor said.
Hall apologized, and said she's glad they got everything out in the open.
O'Connor said people on the council are demonizing Lakeview, when it and its parent company HealthPartners have provided a great service to the community. He said he will not tolerate demonizing anybody in public comments at the next EMS meeting.
The transfers, O'Connor said, were probably going to go away at some point, even if the town of Hudson had not contracted with Lakeview.
"So rather than beating these guys up about taking transfers that belong to them, I really think that this group as well as our EMS service should be thanking them for sustaining our service for as long as they did by allowing our service to use their transfers," O'Connor said.
Doing so kept the service afloat for many years, he said.
City Attorney Catherine Munkittrick said while O'Connor was justified in responding, the council should not discuss the issue further as it was not on the agenda.
The EMS ad hoc committee will meet at 4 p.m. Monday, March 11. The meeting will include time for public comment.