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Talks continue with hospital over EMS
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Combining city and Grant County dispatch services isn’t the only major change to public safety services the City of Platteville is discussing.

Discussions continue between the city and Southwest Health Center over the hospital’s possibly taking over city EMS services.

The theme of those discussions is similar to the theme of the county–city dispatch discussions that took place at the same council work session Aug. 27.

“Somehow people believe because we have these discussions, we’re having these discussions because our people aren’t doing [the services] well,” said District 3 Ald. Barb Daus. “No one has ever said our ambulance service is a poor ambulance service.

“We can’t do what we’ve always done. And it’s very difficult for people to depersonalize.”

Southwest Health Center CEO Dan Rohrbach met with the Common Council in two work sessions, most recently July 9. Rohrbach proposed expanding Platteville EMS to a full-time paramedic service at a net cost of $200,000 to $250,000 per year.

One issue prompting the city to consider SHC’s proposal is the cost of a new EMS facility to replace the Furnace Street facility underneath the downtown water tower. An early version of the city’s 2014–18 Capital Improvement Plan included a separate EMS garage. City officials have also discussed a new fire station with ambulance bays as part of the complex.

The Capital Improvement Plan approved by the Common Council Aug. 27 includes no new fire station or EMS garage, though it does include $118,000 in fire station remodeling and upgrades in 2014 and 2015, as well as $400,000 budgeted to purchase houses near the fire station for future expansion in 2017.

The CIP also includes purchases of ambulances in 2015 and 2017.

Daus said the city needs to provide services in “a cost-effective manner. We can’t always go alone anymore, and we can’t always go on the backs of the taxpayers.”

The idea is not even to proposal stage yet, but it already is generating opposition from outside the city.

Town of Smelser chairman Pat Klar said the hospital’s takeover of EMS services would “lose a lot of things,” including the “opportunity for volunteerism” and EMTs’ losing on-call wages.

Klar said Platteville EMS provides “really unparalleled service in our area.” He predicted costs would increase with the hospital’s providing EMS services, “and I really doubt we’ll be better served by the service.”

Common Council President Eileen Nickels said the state now requires 180 hours of annual training, up from 144 hours.

Platteville has “more reserve in terms of potential volunteers,” she said. “While it looks good now, is it realistic to think that’s not going to change?”

State officials held a meeting in Boscobel after Boscobel EMS didn’t respond to three calls June 12. According to the Boscobel Dial, only six of Boscobel’s 21 EMTs are able to respond during some daytime hours.

“We’re not in a position where Boscobel is … but we also have to look forward, with a new facility on the horizon and all this other stuff, how can we get the best bang for the dollar,” said Daus.

In addition to the City of Platteville, Platteville EMS provides service by annual contract for all or part of the towns of Platteville, Belmont, Elk Grove, Ellenboro, Harrison, Lima and Smelser.

Smelser also is served by the Cuba City Area Rescue Squad. The Town of Ellenboro is also served by Lancaster EMS. The Town of Belmont is also served by Belmont Ambulance Service.

Daus said Platteville EMS serves almost 15,000 people, with the City of Platteville totaling 77 percent of the EMS district and the Town of Platteville 10 percent.