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Ellsworth in need of paramedics for ambulance service

The Ellsworth Area Ambulance Serivce is in need of paramedics for the ambulance crew, discussion of which took place at the May 7 Ellworth Village Board meeting. File photo

During medical emergencies, people expect an ambulance to be available and able to handle the call. However, at the Ellsworth Village Board meeting on May 7, board members heard about staffing issues not only facing the Ellsworth Area Ambulance Service(EAAS), but many area ambulance services. Finding paramedics to staff ambulance services is becoming increasingly tough to do.

Dave Walz from Regions spoke about current staffing issues with the ambulance service. EAAS is contracted with Regions Hospital to provide oversight of the EAAS operation. He said an issue facing many ambulance services is finding paramedics to be on the ambulance service. According to Walz, the paramedic field is highly competitive and Ellsworth is having a hard time finding paramedics because the wage of $13.45 per hour that EAAS pays is not competitive with other paramedic wages in the area. Some Twin Cities services are offering $25 or more per hour to paramedics along with a sign on bonus, he said; other local area ambulance services are paying at least $21 per hour.

The lack of candidates to fill open paramedic positions has left EAAS short staffed. Walz said part of the reason former EAAS Director Dan Morth resigned was because he was working both the director position and filling the unstaffed paramedic shifts. Walz said working both these positions caught up with Morth and he stepped down from the director duties. New EAAS Director Jessi Willenbring is facing the same issues, so Walz said they will have to limit how much time Willenbring is able to work.

"We can't have the director working full-time director and a full-time 24-hour paramedic job," Walz said. "We will minimize hours she works as director. [She] will work as director while doing the paramedic shift."

In the past, when Ellsworth looked for a paramedic they were fortunate to get one qualified candidate to apply who worked out well. Unfortunately, this time they've gotten no response.

Walz suggested raising the paramedic wage to $21 per hour in order to get qualified paramedics to join EAAS. He said for the rest of 2018 this would cost an additional $51,420.

If EAAS is unable to hire enough paramedics to fully staff the ambulance service, Walz said not only will there be a risk to the community with not being able to provide the service but it would also risk the EAAS state license. Right now, EAAS is licensed as a paramedic service and must have a paramedic and another licensed provider staffed at all times.

Trustee Neil Gulbranson said he would hate to see EAAS lose its license to be a paramedic service and go back to being an EMT service. The board was unsure how the village would fund the pay increase. No decision was made at the meeting but board members will consider options for the future of EAAS.

Other news

Donna Huppert, 615 W. Crest Lane, Ellsworth, spoke during public comment about her concerns that her neighbor's sump pump is causing flooding and ice in front of her house. She said the water from the neighbor's sump pump runs out and down the street and causes ice on the road and flooding in front of her house. She said the rest of the street can be clear and in front of her house it is ice because of the neighbor's sump pump.

Huppert asked the board if there were any existing sump pump regulations on where and how water can be pumped to prevent such flooding issues. She requested the village look into drafting an ordinance to send out each year as it does with other ordinances.

After closed session, the board unanimously approved a certified survey map for Preferred Senior Living contingent upon Ellsworth Senior Properties executing a covenant pertaining to the developer's agreement dated July 11, 2011 in form acceptable to and approved by the village attorney. The board also voted to have Cedar Corporation investigate the feasibility and eligibility for the village to create another Tax Increment District in regards to the Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery property.