St. Croix EMS saw $155,000 in salary savings at the end of 2017, largely due to staffing gaps.
About half of that amount came from a paramedic position that was not filled, said city Finance Director Brenda Malinowski, including the salary and benefits for the position. Other savings came from open shifts and other staffing areas.
"The reason we've been profitable in our budget at the end of the year is only because of reduced staff that we didn't meet," said Tim Foster, EMS Commission president and town of Hudson representative. "If we ever get that and meet it, we're going to have a different number at the end of the year because your staff costs are going to be higher."
This year's staffing got off to a bit of a rough start, EMS Chief Brandon Lyksett said, with vacancies, a broken wrist and a period of time one day where the first ambulance was not fully staffed.
Now the service has four new hires going through orientation, filling three .6 part-time positions and one casual position that works two shifts a month. Lyksett said he also has a few more applications that can fill the final three or four openings, once this first round has been through training.
The paramedic position that led to salary savings last year has been filled, and Lyksett said he was meeting with a paramedic for the new fifth position for this year.
In January, EMS had 63 percent of shifts covered, up to 77 percent with supplements by Lyksett and Operations Supervisor Josh Olson.
The plan for EMS is to have two ambulances available all the time. When shifts are open, one ambulance is running. Lyksett said this meant some transfers and 911 calls were given up to other services this month.
Lyksett said he has been noting when the open shifts occur, but does not see any consistency as to when they happen.
"You can't really pinpoint," Lyksett said.
These new staffing hires will bring the service up to full staffing to cover these openings.
"My anticipation is to be fully staffed by June," Lyksett said.
Until then, current part-time staff have been approved to work more hours now, as hour caps are annual.
"As long as we monitor their hourly amount we'll be good," Lyksett said.
EMS Ad Hoc Committee
Council member Joyce Hall said now that scheduling issues have been resolved, the EMS Ad Hoc Committee will continue to work on the financial aspect of St. Croix EMS.
Foster reminded Hall that the EMS partners - town of Hudson, town of Troy and village of North Hudson - make their decisions on the EMS contract in September. The partners are currently in a five-year contract for St. Croix EMS, and will decide if they want to renew it.
Townships are required to have EMS services in place, but as a village, North Hudson is allowed to go without an EMS service.
"We're on wait and see mode now," said Stan Wekkin, North Hudson village president.
One thing Hall said the commission and ad hoc committee should consider looking at is the strategic plan. The EMS strategic plan was last updated in 2011.
Hall said the service needs to have operation stability in order to improve the financials.
Council member Tom McCormick said the two groups might not have a shared vision. He said the committee is focused on continuing EMS's current role as a community-based model, while the commission has to focus on the best way to provide the service, which may mean looking at different options.