Middleton EMS Director Responds To Town's Consideration Of Move To Private Ambulance Company

Error message

  • Notice: Undefined index: taxonomy_term in similarterms_taxonomy_node_get_terms() (line 518 of /home/middleton/www/www/sites/all/modules/similarterms/similarterms.module).
  • Notice: Undefined offset: 0 in similarterms_list() (line 221 of /home/middleton/www/www/sites/all/modules/similarterms/similarterms.module).
  • Notice: Undefined offset: 1 in similarterms_list() (line 222 of /home/middleton/www/www/sites/all/modules/similarterms/similarterms.module).
MTT News Desk's picture
Kevin Murphy

As the Town of Middleton investigates possibly replacing City of Middleton Emergency Medical Service with Ryan Brothers Ambulance Co. next year, Middleton EMS Director Steve Wunsch says the town should compare apples to apples.

“911 service is all we do,” Wunsch said. “We dedicate units 24-7 to respond to 911 calls and that’s expensive.”

Middleton EMS staffs ambulances with two paramedics at all times and paramedics require more than 1,000 hours of training, he added.

Middleton EMS is part of the Dane County 911 System that continually keeps track of public safety units, so the closet unit, not otherwise engaged, is dispatched to the next call.

“All municipalities are tied into an intergovernmental agreement and 911 sends the closest unit regardless of jurisdictional boundary lines, based on the severity of the call,” Wunsch said. “You’re cutting yourself off from a tightly coordinated system if you go with a private [provider].”

If extra ambulances are needed, help will be dispatched from Cross Plains, FitchRona [Fitchburg-Verona EMS] or, Madison through the EMS mutual aid pact. The town could be solely reliant on Ryan Brothers for EMS response, unless the town executes new mutual aid agreements to reflect its new private provider, said Wunsch.

If a municipality contracts with a private provider, Dane County 911 will relay call information to the private provider but it doesn’t keep track of the locations of their vehicles, Wunsch said.

In addition to the cost of service, the town should know what service a private company can provide and what level of training does its providers have, Wunsch said.

Ryan Bros. can staff its ambulances with paramedics or other emergency trained responders, said Patrick Ryan, company spokesman.

 "We offer all certified levels [of responders], of course the cost difference depends on what the town wants,” he said.

Since January 2011, the village of Maple Bluff has contracted with Ryan Bros. for emergency transport service. The EMS district the village was part of with the towns of Blooming Grove and Burke had dissolved.

The Maple Bluff Fire Department has licensed emergency medical intermediate technicians that respond to all EMS calls. Intermediate techs provide initial care on site and Ryan Bros. are contacted to transport the injured to a hospital, said Fire Chief Joshua Ripp.

For years, Maple Bluff had staffed an ambulance with a basic level, the lowest certification for emergency medical responders. Paramedics rank as the highest level.

With mid-level intermediate techs responding to Maple Bluff EMS calls, and transport handled by Ryan Bros., the village keeps its trained staff nearby instead on lengthy hospital runs, Ripp said.

“We don’t have to supply an ambulance or staff one that allows us to keep our trained people in the village during emergency responses.  Under our old system, when the ambulance staff was at the hospital, backup crews were necessary. With Ryan Bros. our first responders are back in service quicker,” Ripp said.

The village isn’t part of the county’s mutual aid EMS agreement and had to rewrite existing agreements to reflect Ryan Bros. as its transport provider, Ripp stated.

Feedback after more than two years of experience with Ryan Bros. has been positive, according to Ripp.

“We did a lot of outreach on customer service the first year and we received all positive responses. They [Ryan Bros.] provided everything we’ve asked and have done a very good job,” he said.

Ripp said the village’s Fire and EMS Commission also has been pleased with the Ryan Bros’ response times.

Ryan Bros. contacted the village about serving the community, said Ripp, making the village the county’s first municipality to privately contract emergency medical transport services.

The Town of Middleton has contracted with Middleton EMS since at least 1979 and in the past three years has paid $181,383, $154,270 and $148,356, respectively.

Middleton EMS serves the city and town of Middleton and part of the town of Springfield. Its annual operating budget is approximately $1.5 million but collects much of its operating revenue in user fees paid by individuals and insurance companies, said Wunsch.

The three municipalities in the EMS district contribute between 33-40 percent of the district’s budget and the town of Middleton’s annual contract contributes about 24 percent of that total, Wunsch explained.

Wunsch acknowledged that the town’s EMS contract has gone up in recent years, but that reflects the town’s increase in population, relative to the two other municipalities and adding new emergency medical equipment.

The City of Middleton discussed contracting with Ryan Bros. in 2001, when it was having difficulty maintaining an all-volunteer department, said Wunsch. However, the city rejected Ryan Bros. then and went on to develop a full-time department.

The town has never complained about the quality of Middleton EMS and Wunsch didn’t know the town would be talking to Ryan Bros. until a reporter called him.

Told of town officials complaining the EMS Commission not meeting frequently enough, Wunsch responded that annual and not quarterly meetings have been the norm in recent years as the department’s pace of change has slowed.

“We meet more often when we were forming a full-time department but we really haven’t had the need to hold more frequent meetings because there hasn’t been that much that has changed,” he said.

Wunsch also provided the number of EMS calls to the town at a reporter’s request, data town officials said the EMS department hasn’t always provided.

In 2012, 132 calls, 120 in 2011, 132 in 2010, 119 in 2009 and 136 in 2008, according to Wunsch.

Of last year’s 132 calls generated by town residents, 38 were Basic Level Life Support, 69 were Level 1 Advanced Life support, 1 was Level 2 Advanced Life Support (the highest care level), 14 were stand by calls in support of dispatched firefighters, and 10 were no care given or no patient found.

Wunsch said he has asked to address the town board but has never been invited to a meeting.

Wunsch said it’s not the private companies can’t do the work of an EMS department but disbanding districts seems counterproductive as municipal budgets are further squeezed.

“Municipalities are in a much more cooperative mode these days. They’re sharing services to make their dollars go farther. When you begin to break off a system into pieces, it becomes more costly, more duplicative and counter to the cost savings municipalities are trying to achieve,” he said.




Rate this article: 
Average: 4.9 (13 votes)