MUSCODA - Gov. Tony Evers Sept. 20 announced $32 million in Emergency Medical Services Flex Grants to 442 EMS providers.
The grants got little mention during Evers’ meeting with Southwest Wisconsin EMS providers at the Hazel Green Area Rescue Squad building.
“Hopefully the money will help,” said Evers, adding the state must “look more deeply at how we fund EMS and firefighters in the state of Wisconsin.”
Instead, the meeting room full of EMTs, almost all of whom are unpaid volunteers, wanted to discuss two issues — staffing, and training and certification requirements.
HGARS’ Jason Piddington said the money — $127,715 in his organization’s case — isn’t going to fix the issues we face.”
Piddington asked Evers why he vetoed Senate Bill 89, which would have made the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) exam optional for Emergency Medical Responders, the first level of EMS certification.
“I don’t want to see the high quality that we have lessened,” said Evers. “Simple as that.”
Evers ran down a list of professions whose licenses are the same throughout the state, and said emergency medical services should have the same levels of certification statewide.
Several EMTs spoke of the difficulty in passing the NREMS, which they said includes questions for medical issues unlikely to be seen in Wisconsin.
One speaker said fewer than 70 percent of candidates pass the exam. A Cassville Rescue Squad member said one of five CRS candidates passed the exam the first time.
One speaker said an EMT candidate failed the NREMS three times and joined the Marine Corps, where he became a combat medic.
A Potosi EMS member who has been a nurse for 32 years and an EMT for 20 years described the NREMT as “a really ambiguously worded test.”
Another speaker said the NREMT requirements are illogical given that their EMT training is to get patients to a hospital as fast as possible, which is a challenge in a part of the state where hospitals are 15 to 30 or more miles away from the patient.
“Why are we trying to make surgeons out of people trying to become EMRs to help patients 20 miles from a hospital?” asked Glen Haven fire chief Lynn Kirschbaum, who started a First Responder group in the township in 2012.
Ridgeway constable Michael Gorham, a former Hazel Green EMT, said the state needs to “start being creative” in possibly offering financial “incentives from the state.”
Another speaker suggested the Evers administration was listening more to organizations representing professional firefighters in Milwaukee, Madison and Janesville, whose goal he said was to replace volunteer EMTs with professionals.
Evers said he had not spoken to representatives of paid firefighters on the subject of EMT certification.
One suggestion was that the state’s technical colleges, which conduct EMT training, work together to create a Wisconsin-specific test to replace the NREMT.
Evers didn’t dismiss the proposal, but said there is “some level of competency that’s needed … some kind of similarity across the state.”
He also said that Southwest Wisconsin was “no different than any other place in the state” having trouble finding EMTs; “we can all agree on that.”
Gorham said there is “no way to put together a paid service in 72 counties,” and that EMTs will be mostly volunteers for the next 15 to 20 years. He added that state mandates “put a lot of stress on agencies.”
Evers said he has added shared revenue funds for municipalities in each budget he introduced to the Legislature, only to have the money “zeroed out” by the Legislature, meaning that shared revenues have dropped over the past 10 to 15 years.
Two of those legislators were at the meeting — Sen. Howard Marklein (R–Spring Green), co-chair of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, and Rep. Travis Tranel (R–Cuba City). Both were sponsors of SB 89.
Evers said he was “hopeful” of a “reasonable increase in shared revenue” in the 2023–25 budget.
The first part of the $32 million in EMS Flex Grants came from $12 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act — State and Local Funds, with another $20 million authorized by Evers.
Recipients listed by county:
Grant County: Boscobel Rescue Squad, $129,055; Cassville Rescue Squad, $13,355; Cuba City Area Rescue Squad, $125,515; Dickeyville Rescue Squad, $126,025; Fennimore Area Rescue Squad, $113,495; Glen Haven Fire Department, $39,000; Hazel Green Area Rescue Squad, $127,715; Lancaster EMS, $17,195; Muscoda Rescue Squad, $135,735; Southwest Health EMS, $140,055.
Crawford County: Eastman First Responders, $130,000; Ferryville First Responders, $59,000; Ocooch Mountain Rescue, $113,095; Seneca First Responders, $82,960.
Richland County: Cazenovia Area Rescue Squad, $13,355; Kickapoo Valley Area Rescue Squad, $102,355; Lone Rock Rescue Unit, $2,235; Richland County Ambulance Service, $22,260; Yuba First Responders, $70,000.
Vernon County:Genoa Harmony First Responders, $181,550; Hillsboro Area Ambulance Service, $140,305; La Farge Area EMS, $19,985; Readstown EMS, $13,355; Stoddard Bergen Fire Department First Responders, $15,750; Viroqua Fire Department, $83,360; Westby First Responders, $79,520; Wheatland First Responders, $157,050.
Lafayette County: Argyle EMS, $19,970; Belmont Ambulance Service, $102,155; Benton First Responders, $4,560; Blanchardville Fire Department, $48,035; Lafayette County EMS, Darlington, $133,945; Shullsburg Ambulance Service, $13,355.
Iowa County: Barneveld Area Rescue Squad, $42,595; Dodgeville Area Ambulance Service, $22,255; Highland Ambulance Service, $261,480; Hollandale First Responders, $261,480; Mineral Point Rescue Squad, $20,385;
Green County: Albany Area EMS, $135,120; Brodhead Area EMS, $112,135; Brooklyn EMS District, $89,005; Green County EMS, $21,365; New Glarus Area EMS, $105,770; Monroe Fire Department First Responders, $187,500.