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Village Exploring Private Ambulance for South Shore Cost Savings

With overtime costs running almost a half-million dollars over budget, Mount Pleasant is exploring a number of options for cost savings, including privatizing ambulance service.

Exactly how much would save is unknown, but officials there are researching the possibility of privatizing ambulance services to reduce costs in the South Shore Fire Department.

Trustee Jerry Garski first started looking into the idea a few months ago, after it was revealed that .

The primary reason for the overage is that two full crews of three are staffed at Station 9 in as part of the villages' 2009 consolidation agreement. or risk having some of the 2012 payment withheld. As of Feb. 20, six firefighters have been stationed in Sturtevant for all shifts every day, bringing the total number of firefighters on duty each shift to 15 when only 12 were budgeted.

"We have to do something to get these costs under control," Garski said. "And it might turn out that this research shows us a private ambulance service won't work, but we have to start thinking outside the box."

Garski said any potential private service would have to keep service levels just as high by staffing three paramedics on a rig to handle advanced life support calls. Firefighters still on staff, then, would remain cross-trained, but would perhaps only need EMT level education and experience to answer basic life support calls.

"We wouldn't need as many firefighters with such a high level of training," he continued. "But this isn't just about the money. We want shorter response times and no reductions in service."

William Miller, union president for South Shore, doesn't see how privatizing ambulance services would save any money since the number of fire fighters needed to provide coverage of both villages doesn't change.

"If there's a fire or an extraction needed at the scene of an accident, firefighters still respond so where's the savings?" he asked. "Milwaukee has private ambulance service, but an engine and a paramedic unit still respond then wait for the private service to transport the patient and they get the revenue. That doesn't make sense."

Miller also pointed out that private ambulance services are not part of MABAS, the mutual aid system that calls on neighboring departments to help out during emergencies that require a more comprehensive response.

Garski, though, said any private service with which the village contracts would have to be included in MABIS.

Mount Pleasant Village President Carolyn Milkie said she is unsure how a private ambulance service would benefit the village but she recongizes the need to explore the option.

"I don't feel this is an alternative for us, but it should be researched to make a determination," she said.

One way a private ambulance could help, though, would be to transport patients from the Aurora facilities on Washington Avenue to the hospital. Current procedure is that medical staff there call 911 to get an ambulance to take patients to St. Mary's.

"That is a serious waste of our resources in South Shore so I could see a benefit there," Milkie added.

Sturtevant Trustee Chris Larson said until he has more information, he can't really express an opinion one way or the other.

"Until I see some ideas on paper, I can't comment," he said.

me September 10, 2012 at 04:32 AM
when it comes to a life and death situation. I think Richard maybe you should spend some time with the FD to get a better understanding of what they are faced with before you make comments on something that you don't know about. And for the record I am not a FF but a village resident that has many family members living here that have called upon the FF for emergency matters.
Kevin Presser September 10, 2012 at 05:06 AM
@Richard Head...I am a retired army veteran. I am married, and both my wife and myself are disabled. That means we are on a fixed income. I despise unions, because in my opinion they only promote mediocrity. Seniority rules and there is no incentive to improve your job performance. The phrase 'good enough for government work,' ring a bell. Since you did such a fine job making assumptions about me. let me return the favor. Why don't you just admit you want the village to hire a bunch of Walmart retreads so we can keep the village taxes low. You get what you pay for. You want a bunch of bums working in public safety, you can watch your homeowners insurance costs go through the roof. But hey, at least it won't be taxes. I am more upset with the taxes I am paying to Unified than what I am paying to the Village. At least with Village I have an idea my taxes are paying for something worthwhile in the police and fire departments.
Richard Head September 10, 2012 at 09:56 AM
You got pretty nasty there, for such a sob story. Life is tough. Quit demanding that others be forcibly taxed out of their home so you can get the services they demand. And NO! Getting what you pay for is ofter untrue. BTW - most EVERYBODY is on a FIXED INCOME! You have shelter, a toilet, a bed, a computer, electricity, running water, a full belly, most likely a vehicle, and disability pay, and yet you STILL WHINE and make an issue of it. MAN-UP!
Gutierrez31 September 10, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Richard Head please read the statistics on volunteer departments vs. paid/unionized fire departments and you will have cleary illustrated evidence that you do get what you pay for! You should really look into all your facts before you project your negative, misguided opinion on everyone else. And if you're telling me that i get what I pay for is NOT true, then shouldn't everyone be paid the same wage? Why are there pay scales for any job then? Since that does not apply you think you will get the same knowledge and care from. CNA (1-2yrs of school) versus a doctor (8+ years Of School)?
MikeK October 23, 2012 at 01:29 PM
First off, you only need 2 paramedics in a rig to perform ALS calls. Second if they switched to private ambulance's a response time would be established in their contract. Third in Milwaukee an engine and paramedic rig from MFD only respond due to the nature of the call (on complaints such as resp or cardiac). Fourth the quality of Ems staff on private ambulances can be superior to municipality Ems staff, due to sheer volume of calls ran by private ems staff. This article was hard to read with all the ignorant opinions, clearly that union rep is way out of touch with reality. Lots of communities have switched to private and saved a ton if money.

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