By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
The last call
After 31 years, Platteville EMS ends, and Southwest Health takes over
EMS garage night
The Platteville EMS garage is pictured after what turned out to be Platteville EMS final call early Sunday. With Southwest Health taking over EMS services, the ambulances will be moved to a facility on the hospital campus. Southwest Health EMS will be a paramedic service within two years.

On Saturday around 11:40 p.m., Platteville EMS was called to the scene of a one-car rollover crash on Grant County O west of Platteville.

The crash (see photo, page 2A) didn’t result in a transport of a patient to Southwest Health, because there was no driver or passenger to be found at the scene.

That call and a canceled call at 2:16 a.m. were the last for the Platteville EMS organization after 30 years and two months of serving the Platteville area. At 6 a.m. Sunday, Southwest Health officially took over Platteville’s EMS services. Southwest Health EMS’ first call was Sunday before 8 a.m.

The agreement between Southwest Health and the City of Platteville and six towns in the Platteville EMS calls for Southwest Health to provide paramedic service within two years of the agreement’s signing, which took place May 26.

The city, which pays about 77 percent of EMS costs, and the towns that signed the agreement — the Grant County towns of Ellenboro, Harrison, Lima and Smelser, and the Lafayette County towns of Belmont and Elk Grove — agreed in the transfer to Southwest Health to pay a total of $100,000 in 2016, and up to 75 percent of costs thereafter, with limits — up to $150,000 in 2017, and from $130,000 to $150,000 per year between 2018 and 2024. Annual reimbursement could increase annually by the Consumer Price Index from 2025 to 2034 at Southwest Health’s discretion.

Southwest Health CEO Dan Rohrbach and EMS administrator Brian Allen said rates would not increase with the upgrade in paramedic service because fees were assessed based on the medical services provided, not on the certification of the EMTs, even to paramedic level. 

“We’re committed to not increasing rates” for ambulance calls, he said. “We’re setting the fee. Everything above and beyond that is on us. It’s a risk for us, but that’s what we do’ we’re in health care.”

Basic EMS service calls cost $650 for district residents and $850 for non-residents. Another $100 is charged for advanced EMS calls, which total about 25 percent of Platteville EMS calls.

“You can look at that as Southwest Health is upgrading paramedic service on our dime,” said Rohrbach in May. “Basically we’re shouldering that paramedic increase,” with the municipalities paying for an EMS building and equipment over the term of the agreement. “Cost is always an issue; we’re very conscious at that.”

Southwest Health estimated in the contract that paramedic service would cost about $200,000 per year, including construction and ambulance replacement costs. The annual costs to the EMS district municipalities of up to $150,000 were reduced from initial projections of $200,000 to $250,000 per year when the subject first came up in 2013.

About half of Platteville EMS’ EMTs are now part of Southwest Health EMS, and half were not offered jobs in the new service, according to one EMT who was not offered a position. The EMT said former Platteville EMS EMTs were likely to apply at area EMS services, including Lancaster and Cuba City.

The Platteville Common Council dispersed funds from all but one of Platteville EMS’ funds with balances more than zero Sept. 22. Almost $29,000 from the Carmen and Eva Beining Trust is going to Southwest Health, as is about $6,500 from an account for EMS equipment and training regulated by state Act 102.

“The people who [were] giving this money worked very hard to earn this money,” said District 3 Ald. Barb Daus. “And when they talk about giving these gifts they talk about doing extraordinary things, not ordinary things.”

“I do think what we’re doing is extraordinary,” said at-large Ald. Amy Seeboth-Wilson, who voted, as did District 4 Ald. Ken Kilian, against giving the Beining Trust money to Southwest Health. “If a private entity from Dubuque had come in and taken over EMS, would we give them the Beining trust money?”

Kilian said the Beining money should go toward the first city payment to Southwest Health. 

A fund originally created for a new EMS building was given to the Platteville Fire Department for a new or renovated fire station. A fund created to purchase supplies for Automated External Defibrillators was assigned to the city Department of Public Works, which is maintaining AEDs in city buildings. 

The money in the largest fund, which had almost $180,000 for the purchase of a new ambulance, will be determined at a future EMS district meeting.

Platteville Area Ambulance Service began operation in the Municipal Building Aug. 1, 1984, a year after it was formed to take over EMS services from the Platteville Police Department, which started ambulance service at the end of 1966. Before that, the city’s three funeral homes also provided ambulance service. The city purchased an ambulance and equipment from Karrmann Funeral Home to start police ambulance service. The current ambulance garage at 330 W. Furnace St. was built in 1986.

Platteville police managed the ambulance service until 1994, when a part-time director was hired, though police still dispatch the ambulance. One year later, the city changed the ambulance service’s name to Platteville Emergency Medical Service.

Platteville EMS served about 17,000 people, with the City of Platteville totaling 77 percent of the EMS district and the Town of Platteville 10 percent. About 85 percent of Platteville EMS’ calls were within the city boundaries.