Viewpoint: Add your voice to the EMS debate
By Joyce Hall, Hudson District 6 Alderperson
On Monday, March 11, there will be two opportunities for public input regarding ambulance service in Hudson. At 4 p.m. the ad-hoc committee will meet. This committee is comprised of the full Hudson Common Council plus representatives from the municipal partners who contract with the city for ambulance service.
At 7 p.m., the council will have its regular meeting and there will be another opportunity for public input. Both meetings will be in the Council Chambers at City Hall and all are welcome to attend and give input.
At this time, there are two proposals being considered, one from St. Croix EMS (SCEMS) and one from Lakeview EMS (LVEMS).
The council and ad-hoc committee went through a Request for Proposals (RFP) process to make sure that we are getting the best possible service at the best possible price. There were four proposals including one from SCEMS. A proposal from one service was considerably more money than the city budgets for ambulance service. Another service withdrew their proposal when LVEMS announced that they were taking the interfacility transfers out of the hospital. These transfers provide needed revenue to keep the costs to the municipalities down.
This left two proposals, one from SCEMS and one from LVEMS. In June 2017, the Hudson Common Council turned down a contract with LVEMS for valid reasons and there are still valid reasons to turn down Lakeview's proposal and fully support SCEMS.
SCEMS utilizes quick response vehicles so that paramedics can get to the scene before the ambulance arrives, a system which reduces response times. The county dispatch center contacts SCEMS directly. Lakeview EMS is dispatched through Allina's dispatch center so the county dispatch center must call Allina's dispatch center which contacts the ambulance; this adds an extra step and consumes valuable time for their response. In many medical emergencies such as strokes or cardiac events, response time is critical to patient outcomes and must be considered the most important factor when evaluating service providers.
SCEMS has two ambulances 24/7 with one in reserve that can be staffed when needed. These ambulances are dedicated to the city of Hudson and our partners' needs. The SCEMS operational plan approved by the State of Wisconsin requires SCEMS to only do interfacility transfers when another ambulance is available for 911 calls. The previous contract negotiated with LVEMS (that the city turned down) called for two ambulances stationed at Hudson Hospital, but these ambulances could be called to other areas of the LVEMS service area.
Of the two services only SCEMS is licensed by the State of Wisconsin for critical care transports.
This decision is critical to protecting our city residents' health and safety and future access to care. We also need to protect the city's future financial interests. If we contract this service out and subsequently sell our ambulances, it will be extremely difficult and expensive to rebuild our service. Once an initial contract has expired, there is no guarantee that we can contract for the same services at similar rates which will put the city into a weak bargaining position. We cannot risk that for our city. Let's not give up the city's current control over quality of service and cost in search of short-term cost savings.
We have three ambulance services in the area that are doing well with community support and reasonable fees to the partner municipalities: New Richmond, Baldwin, and River Falls. I support applying their models to our service. If they can do it, we can do it.
After going through the RFP process, I believe that the best decision for the health and safety of our citizens is fine-tuning our current provider, not contracting it out. If you support local ownership of the ambulance service, I would ask you to add your voice at our meetings on March 11 at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.