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Rural Medical discussion not stopping

POSTED January 11, 2018 11:16 a.m.

    DARLINGTON – The Darlington City Council meeting was held Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2018 at the City Council meeting room.
    Rural Medical discussion was first on the agenda. Alder Cindy Corley, the city’s Rural Medical Board of Directors representative, read a prepared statement, “At the Dec. board meeting of Rural Medical Ambulance Service, the crew presented a proposal for ambulance services. This proposal is premature at this time, because the long range planning committee, set up by the Rural Medical Board, has not met yet. No criteria has been set up or discussed by the long range committee. This was mentioned at that Dec. meeting. This proposal would be a lot more involved than a simple rewrite of Article 3 of the Rural Medical Ambulance Service by-laws, to change the Board of Directors, in order for Rural Medical Ambulance Service to be membership run. Nor would the shareholders of Rural Medical Ambulance Service district be willing to give up their voting rights, which they have had since forming the board in 1978. There are also financial and legal questions regarding this proposal.”
    Corley continued, “Right now for Rural Medical Ambulance Service district to break even, the next budget would include an increase of $5 per capita, which would be $10 per capita for the next budget. The 2018 budget includes an operating loss of $27,702, plus the balance of a defibrillator loan and line-of-credit of $23,000.”
    Corley finished, “It would be my recommendation at this time to wait for the long range planning committee to meet and to allow them time to establish guidelines and criteria.”
    Dave  Ohnstad, Rural Medical Board of Directors member was asked if he had anything to add.  Ohnstad responded, “That’s pretty much it. We haven’t had a committee meeting yet, we will be having one at the end of this week. We have to set up the criteria for proposal. Once we have that and everyone will get a copy of the criteria, then we will put out a notice to apply. In fairness to the members, we will give them a chance to apply... again.”
    Erin Gallagher asked, “What will the criteria define?”  Ohnstad answered, “What is required of a service provider. By statue and by Rural Medical Ambulance Services Incorporated.”
    Alder Dave Gough said, “I want to thank Cindy for her report and I question why we never received a report previously on this issue. Until the Rural Medical Board came to our meeting in Dec. we were never made aware there was an issue or a problem. Never once did you ever report anything to this council and ask the council what their opinion was, regarding Rural Medical. So evidently you were going by your own whim.”
    Gough continued, “I talked to Dave (Ohnstad) on the phone for a half an hour. I expressed to him I am opposed to privatization. I want to see if the volunteers can do the job. The job that they have doing for the last several years. When this word gets around, maybe more volunteers will step up and we can remedy this situation without looking at privatization. I’m saddened by the situation currently.”
     Ohnstad said, “We are looking at all options, it isn’t just about privatization.” Gough said, “I understand.”  Ohnstad said, “I made that very clear in the Dec. meeting that I was at.” Alder John Sonsalla said, “You used the word proactive. Which meant you where in the studying process. So you should be able to work with membership and find out the best solution. Because I don’t want to see loss of local control.”  Ohnstad responded, “We have been and there have been a number of attempts and campaigns to recruit EMT’s, with very little success. This is not unique for this area.”
    Jason King, Darlington Chief of Police and Rural Medical member ask Corley, “Can you explain to the council how it is that you were willing to pitch the idea of Paramount (privatization) and now saying ‘we don’t want to give up our authority’. When the members come forward you say you have a problem with that, but you had no problem with pitching the idea of Paramount.” Corley answered, “That’s long range planning. That was in the event that weekend coverage was needed.”
    King repeated his point, “So why are you researching Paramount, when now you’re telling the city council that the stake holders aren’t willing to give up there seat on the board?”  Ohnstad said, “It came out of a meeting where we decided, because of staffing issues, that we would look into private services for back up…” King interjected, “That wasn’t my question and I was asking my elected official. Cindy, why are you now telling this council that you are unwilling to give up your seat on Rural Medical Board, but a month ago you were pitching the idea of privatization?” Corley answered, “I think the members offer is premature at this time without having criteria set, and that was said at the Dec. 4 meeting.”
     Ohnstad said, “I think there is a misunderstanding here Jason. We will not be giving up our seats even if we privatize. We would contract if that happens. Rural Medical Ambulance Services, Incorporated will remain intact and has to remain intact. The board members will stay on the board.”
    King responded, “That’s not what you pitched. Things are changing now. These meetings are recorded. That’s not what you pitched to this council. You can say what you want, but it’s recorded.”  Ohnstad said, “That’s what the paper said.” King said, “I don’t care what the paper said, I care what this clerk right here has on his recorder.”  Ohnstad said, “The newspaper quoted me accurately and verbatim.”
    King, “What your saying is that it’s premature. The reason the membership has provided this offer is they want these talks to stop. They want this to stop. There is nothing wrong at Rural Medical. So they have come up with their own offer to take it over. It seems to them that this board doesn’t want anything to do with Rural Medical. They want to just do this and walk away. Why is it not as simple as rewriting articles in the by-laws. Even though we’ve hired an attorney and the attorney has told us that’s exactly how simple it is.”
    Corley answered, “I believe there are legalities there. I believe there are legalities at the state level.”
    King, “Well there are. We’ve hired a lawyer. What is your basis for saying that. We’ve covered our base.”
     Ohnstad, “What is legal Jason is we are elected officials, representing municipalities, and you don’t just replace elected officials on a whim, because you want to. We have an obligation and a job to do and we are going to fulfill that responsibility. I think there is confusion also, on who is going to cover the liability and the financial end. If Rural Medical Ambulance Service, Inc. did dissolve, someone else will have to pick that debt up.”
    King said, “Rural Medical is not going to dissolve.”
     Ohnstad, “I just told you that, Rural Medical Ambulance Service, Inc. is not going to dissolve and we are going to have representation from each municipality. That’s the way it was set up and that’s the way it’s going to stay. That is what’s legal, if you want to talk legal and I don’t think anyone would argue that.”
    King, “Well, I would and I can. Rural Medical is a business, it is a separate incorporated business, that can decide for its self who the board of directors are. The board of directors now is set up of representatives from each municipality. The membership has decided - that just doesn’t work. That’s why they have come forward and said rewrite that article, taking the current board out and putting in different directors, it is as simple as that. Nothing else changes. We already have our own insurance, we have our own coverage. None of the municipalities insure Rural Medical.
    King continued, “What I’m hearing you say is that you are flat out denying anything we’ve said, without knowing the intricacies of the proposal.
    Corley, “Well, when I look at your proposal, I see that it’s not signed by the membership, how do I know who supports it and who doesn’t. Plus, I was expecting the proposal to be more detailed and when it gets down to it, it doesn’t solve any of the problems that exist. Mainly the daytime coverage of the service.”
    King, “You continued to maintain that there are problems, do you have any evidence of that? Have we missed any calls? No. Have we ever not been able to fill a second ambulance? No, not a single time.”
    Mayor David Breunig inserted, “Does anyone else have any comments?
    Gallagher said, “It’s an unfortunate situation all around. I’ve spoken to former board members, there seems like there is an intense history between the board and membership and possibly struggles within the membership. It’s unfortunate that being elected officials and being volunteers, that we can’t find a way to work together. Maybe a mediator is needed. That’s key, how are you going to work together?”
    Breunig adds his comments, “I’ve attended three different meetings lately and what I have seen is the Rural Medical members are active, caring, they have got plenty of members and they are filling their shifts. The biggest problem they have is the board members are not listening to the Rural Medical Ambulance members. They’re not being respected.”
    Corley asked, “In what way? Do you have an example of that?”
    Breunig, “Why are you even bothering with the long range plan? There is not a problem. All you’re doing is making everybody upset. There is no need for it to begin with. You’re creating your own problem.”
    Breunig asked, “Any motions or action on this subject. Otherwise we will move on.”
    Gough said, “I think action is premature at this point. If the board of directors have it in their heads that they want to go ahead with this… evaluation. Then in my opinion, I would like to see what they come up with.”
    Corley added one more thought, “Somewhere down the road, unless we have more recruitment. Someday we will hit a snag. Right now, we have four active EMT’s, and one is on medical leave; two RN’s; three limited EMT’s; one inactive EMT; six drivers; four EMR’s (emergency medical responders). There are approximately 42 shifts to fill per week, that’s a lot of shifts to fill in a month when you’re at 168 shifts to keep going without eventual burnout.”
    In Other Business:
    •Announced candidates who filled out nomination papers for the April 17, 2018 Spring Election (see election story in this week’s RJ).
    •Approved spending $1,950 to Burbach Aquatics, Inc. of Platteville for a technical evaluation to see what the current status of city’s 60+ year old pool is.
    •Approved unlimited class charges in the wellness center.
    •Approved a bid of $2,490 by Willborn Custom Painting for painting three downstairs rooms in the Wellness Center. Breunig explained why the city’s janitorial staff is not doing the painting.

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