|Facing economic realities, the city of Antigo is considering bowing out of the ambulance business and moving toward a volunteer fire department.|
The council’s Finance, Personnel and Legislative Committee will take up the proposal at its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday. It will begin at 6 p.m. in the chambers at City Hall.
According to Mayor Bill Brandt, the issue comes down to simple economics.
“The city isn’t able to afford to maintain the level of service our ambulance offers,” the mayor said.
Brandt said the issue has been in quiet discussion for years, with Langlade Hospital anteing up for a study of the present operation following cutbacks in fire personnel nearly two years ago.
“That study is now done and basically shows that we’re doing everything we can to enhance revenues,” Brandt said, adding that the hospital “feels they would be able to operate the ambulance and maintain the level of services now available.”
He stressed that the community is fortunate to have Langlade Hospital willing to take over the high-level service, calling it an exceptional investment in the community..
There’s more in the mix as well, the mayor added. New rules included in the federal Affordable Care Act will affect everything from payment of ambulance fees to how and if information can be shared between service providers.
“It just makes sense for a hospital-based service,” Brandt said.
The city ambulance operates with a budget of $1.755 million, funded through revenues plus an agreement with the city and 10 townships that utilize the service. The city’s levy is currently $354,619.
If an agreement is reached with Langlade Hospital, Brandt said a similar arrangement would be put into place between the city, townships and the hospital.
“We would still have to subsidize the service,” Brandt said. “But we don’t believe it will cost any more than it currently is, and it could be less.”
A separate, interconnected issue, revolves around the future of the city’s full-time fire department.
Fire protection costs the city $508,000 annually, and Brandt said those dollars are on the table as well.
“We would be looking at some sort of volunteer fire service within the city or exploring the possibility of a partnership with several departments,” Brandt said. “Those are ideas we would be working on.”
Ambulance services were provided by private contractors in the city and Langlade County for decades, until 1992, when the city backed a proposal to combine ambulance services with the full-time fire department.
Since then, ambulance services and expertise have improved monumentally, with staffers now trained at paramedic level and offering a highly advanced, and very speedy, level of care.
In 2012, the fire and ambulance service reported 1,961 calls, the most ever, according to the agency’s annual report.
The service operates under the director of Public Safety Director Eric Roller and Fire Chief Jon Petroskey. It maintains 18 full-time firefighters and paramedics plus eight paid-on-call employees.
The ambulance also provides services to the towns of Ackley, Antigo, Neva, Peck, Polar, Price, Rolling Summit, Upham and Vilas.
AMBULANCE- Antigo fire Chief Jon Petroskey with a city ambulance outside the fire department today. On Wednesday, the city's Finance, Personnel and Legislative Committee will consider changes that could move ambulance services to Langlade Hospital.