City ambulance changes possible

Patrick Fisher, Staff Writer

At a special meeting on Monday, Nov. 23, the New Prague City Council began discussions on whether to upgrade the city's ambulance service from Basic Life Support (BLS) to Advanced Life Support (ALS).

An audience of 33 people gathered, including representatives from Queen of Peace Hospital in New Prague, North Memorial Ambulance Service in Robbinsdale, and members of New Prague Ambulance Service, which had about 20 people in the audience.

City Administrator Mike Johnson explained the proposal from North Memorial Ambulance and Queen of Peace Hospital was similar to one presented in May, 2008. Discussions were delayed due to various reasons, including changes in city administration, makeup of the city council and other city projects that took priority.

Under the current BLS system, the ambulance service is owned and operated by the city and staffed by Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) volunteers. Under the ALS proposal from North Memorial and Queen of Peace, the ambulance service would be operated by North Memorial, with the city holding the license and contracting the service to North Memorial.

Johnson noted there were several questions for the council and community to consider. Among them were the differences between BLS and ALS, benefits to patients and the hospital, cost difference and who pays, what happens if the city chooses not to upgrade now or in the future and why there are ALS ambulance services in communities to the west, north and east of New Prague and not here?

Making a case for ALS were Dr. Michael Wilcox, Medical Director for the New Prague Ambulance, Mary Klimp, CEO of Queen of Peace Hospital, Dr. Eric Gage, Emergency Department Medical Director at the hospital and Dr. Marty Herrmann a member of the hospital board. They said the current ambulance crews provide exceptional service, but believed ALS would provide a higher level of care. Dr. Wilcox noted it is becoming more difficult to find EMT volunteers, some are getting older and some businesses are not allowing volunteers to leave work. Dr. Herrmann explained ALS can provide patients with services such as IV drips and different level of medications.

Patrick Coyne, Director of North Memorial Ambulance Service, noted both New Prague and Queen of Peace have lost some service area as other communities contracted with other agencies for ALS. For example, New Prague Ambulance at one time served Elko New Market, but that community now contracts with Northfield for ALS Service. The Belle Plaine Ambulance worked out of Queen of Peace for many years, but that city now contracts with Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia for its ALS service.

Coyne added that there would be a place for current New Prague Ambulance Service employees. They can be EMTs with North Memorial if they pass a basic physical.

The proposed agreement would offer part-time ALS with a two-man crew - a paramedic and an EMT - on site 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Coverage at night would be BLS with local crews on-call. Benefits to the community would be the higher level of service, improved transfer capability and improved response time.

Johnson said the city would lease its ambulance facility to North Memorial if an agreement was put in place.

Mike Riker of New Prague, an EMT volunteer, explained the ambulance service understands the big picture, but he had several questions. He asked how many current transfers were BLS and ALS and whether the numbers had changed drastically enough to warrant ALS. He said if the city were to go to ALS service, it should be full-time.

Council member Kay Wilcox - who is the wife of Dr. Wilcox - noted the change in service mattered, especially when she saw the hospital and ambulance services being slowly eaten away by other communities.

After nearly two hours of discussion, Mayor Bink Bender adjourned the meeting, saying the council would continue the discussion at a future date. He asked those making presentations to be prepared to answer some of the questions that were raised at the meeting.Patrick Fisher

Staff Writer

At a special meeting on Monday, Nov. 23, the New Prague City Council began discussions on whether to upgrade the city's ambulance service from Basic Life Support (BLS) to Advanced Life Support (ALS).

An audience of 33 people gathered, including representatives from Queen of Peace Hospital in New Prague, North Memorial Ambulance Service in Robbinsdale, and members of New Prague Ambulance Service, which had about 20 people in the audience.

City Administrator Mike Johnson explained the proposal from North Memorial Ambulance and Queen of Peace Hospital was similar to one presented in May, 2008. Discussions were delayed due to various reasons, including changes in city administration, makeup of the city council and other city projects that took priority.

Under the current BLS system, the ambulance service is owned and operated by the city and staffed by Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) volunteers. Under the ALS proposal from North Memorial and Queen of Peace, the ambulance service would be operated by North Memorial, with the city holding the license and contracting the service to North Memorial.

Johnson noted there were several questions for the council and community to consider. Among them were the differences between BLS and ALS, benefits to patients and the hospital, cost difference and who pays, what happens if the city chooses not to upgrade now or in the future and why there are ALS ambulance services in communities to the west, north and east of New Prague and not here?

Making a case for ALS were Dr. Michael Wilcox, Medical Director for the New Prague Ambulance, Mary Klimp, CEO of Queen of Peace Hospital, Dr. Eric Gage, Emergency Department Medical Director at the hospital and Dr. Marty Herrmann a member of the hospital board. They said the current ambulance crews provide exceptional service, but believed ALS would provide a higher level of care. Dr. Wilcox noted it is becoming more difficult to find EMT volunteers, some are getting older and some businesses are not allowing volunteers to leave work. Dr. Herrmann explained ALS can provide patients with services such as IV drips and different level of medications.

Patrick Coyne, Director of North Memorial Ambulance Service, noted both New Prague and Queen of Peace have lost some service area as other communities contracted with other agencies for ALS. For example, New Prague Ambulance at one time served Elko New Market, but that community now contracts with Northfield for ALS Service. The Belle Plaine Ambulance worked out of Queen of Peace for many years, but that city now contracts with Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia for its ALS service.

Coyne added that there would be a place for current New Prague Ambulance Service employees. They can be EMTs with North Memorial if they pass a basic physical.

The proposed agreement would offer part-time ALS with a two-man crew - a paramedic and an EMT - on site 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Coverage at night would be BLS with local crews on-call. Benefits to the community would be the higher level of service, improved transfer capability and improved response time.

Johnson said the city would lease its ambulance facility to North Memorial if an agreement was put in place.

Mike Riker of New Prague, an EMT volunteer, explained the ambulance service understands the big picture, but he had several questions. He asked how many current transfers were BLS and ALS and whether the numbers had changed drastically enough to warrant ALS. He said if the city were to go to ALS service, it should be full-time.

Council member Kay Wilcox - who is the wife of Dr. Wilcox - noted the change in service mattered, especially when she saw the hospital and ambulance services being slowly eaten away by other communities.

After nearly two hours of discussion, Mayor Bink Bender adjourned the meeting, saying the council would continue the discussion at a future date. He asked those making presentations to be prepared to answer some of the questions that were raised at the meeting.

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