The city of Hudson and its partners have narrowed the search for EMS services down to two proposals - current provider St. Croix EMS and HealthPartners Lakeview EMS.
Hudson Common Council members and representatives from village of North Hudson and town of Troy heard proposals from four different entities in December. At a Jan. 7 meeting, the committee voted against the proposals from Lakes Region and North Memorial.
St. Croix EMS proposed three options for the city. The first raised run rates by 80 percent, eliminating the need for a subsidy from the city and its EMS partners. The second option raised the rates by 45 percent, maintaining the city of Hudson's subsidy at $226,000 a year.
The service would continue to operate with its paramedic and EMT model.
A third option is a long-term plan to join the New Richmond EMS association, an intergovernmental co-op of municipalities who each have voting power on a 13-person board. The city would need approval from the board to join.
If it did, Hudson would serve as a second base for the association and operate much the same as now.
The per capita cost would be $9.88, and member municipalities would pay a subsidy based 50 percent on calls and 50 percent on population.
Lakeview proposed a two-ambulance service for the area stationed out of Hudson Hospital. The service would not cost anything for the city or its partners. Instead users would pay the ambulance rates.
Lakeview ambulances would run on a two-paramedic staffing model. Lakeview does not employ EMTs like St. Croix EMS currently does.
Dynamic deployment would be used by Lakeview EMS to cover Hudson and its other coverage areas when needed. This means if one area's ambulance went out on call, others would shift coverage and move an ambulance into that area.
Common Council Jim Webber said he could not move forward on anything without seeing the ambulance rates for each service.
St. Croix EMS rates for 2019 for residents are $1,420 for basic life support, $1,630 for advanced life support 1 and $1,860 for advanced life support 2.
The proposals from EMS proposed an 80 percent or 45 percent increase to the 2018 rates. The 2019 rates are a 15 percent increase from 2018.
Mayor Rich O'Connor questioned if an increase of 80 percent were legal. Finance Director Brenda Malinowski said the city would need to check with the billing company. Previously they were not comfortable with an increase of more than 15 percent, she said.
Lakeview EMS presented its gross charges. The numbers are what is charged, not what the service gets paid.
The Lakeview gross charges for are $1,010 for basic life support, $1,730 for basic life support emergent, $1,871 for advanced life support 1, non emergent, $1,967 for advanced life support emergent and $2,494 for advanced life support 2 emergent.
Webber said the city also should have an open session to hear public comments somewhere in the process.
City Attorney Catherine Munkittrick said the committee hearing the proposals was charged to make a recommendation, and once that recommendation is made, the council can decide how to proceed. Webber said a public hearing could be part of that recommendation.
Common Council Member Paul Deziel said currently, with Lakeview serving town of Hudson and St. Croix EMS still in place, there are three ambulances in the city. Deziel asked if that was a benefit to the city. Olson said it does provide quicker access to close mutual aid. He said the service would work well with Lakeview if it became a long-term situation.
Council Member Sarah Atkins Hoggatt said it was important that the city does not lose its dive team. Lakeview EMS Director Jon Muller said the service was willing to work with the city on it. Webber said the city would keep the dive team under the management of the fire department or police department.
Local control concerns
St. Croix EMS Operations Supervisor Josh Olson said the time frame to join the New Richmond EMS Association would be a minimum of a year.
Council Member Joyce Hall said the number of votes a city gets on the association board is based off population.
O'Connor questioned if the association would give a new member more votes than anyone else currently on the board. He said joining the board is a poor decision, calling it a road to disaster.
"It's one thing to say we're going to do what we can to hang on to St. Croix EMS, and I think that's a worthwhile endeavor," O'Connor said. "It's a whole new ballgame if we want to join New Richmond Association in order to do that."
Lakeview EMS would provide local control, O'Connor said, with oversight and standards that have to be met.
"I think we absolutely lose local control. There is no semblance of local control if you're hoping that a year or two or three down the road we can merge with New Richmond," he said.
Deziel challenged that idea, saying New Richmond has a public board of people from the communities.
Going with Lakeview would mean a 100 percent loss of local control, Deziel said.
"The question I think the council has to consider is who do you trust more? Do you trust HealthPartners taking control of your ambulance service or do you trust an intergovernmental co-op of elected people who are accountable to the voters," Deziel said.
Village of North Hudson President Stan Wekkin said he has experiences being the minority on different committees in this area.
"When you're outnumbered, you're outnumbered," he said.
At the next meeting, O'Connor said he'd like to see side by side comparisons on costs and asked the council members to create pros and cons lists for each service. He also requested to have input from the New Richmond EMS Association board.
The council asked for more information on facility costs for St. Croix EMS, which will need to move to a new facility soon.
Hudson Fire Chief Scott St. Martin requested the committee delve into first responders, defining who they are and who will run it.
The committee will meet again at 4 p.m. on Feb. 4.