In this day and age, when you experience or witness a medical emergency, you likely have an expectation that when you call 911, you will get a quick response from an ambulance. When the ambulance arrives, you expect it to be stocked with up-to-date medical equipment and supplies. Furthermore, you will count on the ambulance to be staffed with well-trained, skilled EMS personnel to provide medical care and safe transport to the hospital. But how much does all of that cost? First, a little background:
Before 1974, a medical emergency in Lake Mills meant you would have had to wait 30-45 minutes for an ambulance to arrive because the nearest aid was located in Fort Atkinson or Watertown. In response to that crucial need, the Lake Mills Emergency Medical Services was founded by Bill Hayes, Sally Kressin and a group of local citizens to provide an ambulance service for Lake Mills and several surrounding communities, including the towns of Lake Mills and Aztalan and parts of the townships of Milford and Waterloo--a total of about 88 square miles. The original crew consisted of 40 volunteers. A board of directors consisting of Mike Fitzpatrick, Burt Brosseau, Steve Betta, Bob Colyer, Dr. Manfred Effenhauser, John Neupert, Marvin Stelse and Larry Zade set the foundation for the organization with Bill Hayes as the first Chief. The van ambulance was originally housed at Hayes’ residence on South Main Street.
So, what is the cost of running an EMS service? Some examples of expenses include the three ambulances and one quick response vehicle, fuel, maintenance and insurance costs, as well as medical equipment and supplies, for each ambulance. The newest ambulance, purchased in 2016, cost about $180,000. Medical equipment, each of the three ambulances has a LIFEPAK machine to provide EKG heart monitoring, take vitals and send pictures of a patient’s EKG readout directly to a hospital ER. A new LIFEPAK machine was recently purchased at a cost of about $28,000. Each ambulance also has an AED (automated external defibrillator) which costs between $1,600 and $2,400, depending on the model. Two of the three ambulances have a Stryker Powerload Stretcher which costs upwards of $44,000.
If you were to read through the “Ambulance Check List” for each of the three ambulances, you would see a mind-boggling list of equipment and supplies for handling diabetic emergencies, heart attacks, airway and breathing emergencies, overdoses and traumatic injuries, among others. A dose of nitroglycerin is about $27, with cardiac patients receiving up to three doses. A single dose of Naloxone (Narcan) for an opioid overdose costs $54. Multiple doses of all medicines are carried on each ambulance. A CPAP mask costs about $35. A King Airway set costs $40.
Back in 1974, the EMS service was made up of volunteers from the community. Fast forward to 2020, and there are still many dedicated volunteers working at Lake Mills EMS. In addition, paid-on-call and paid-on-premises medical personnel, as well as a full-time paid service director, have been added to best serve the increase in the area population and number of calls. There is always the ongoing need to staff for emergencies 24/7, 365 days per year. Up-to-date training and state certifications is a must.
The Lake Mills EMS is a private, self-sustaining, non-profit 501©3 entity with its own board of directors. Approximately 12% of the Lake Mills EMS’s annual income is subsidized by each of the municipalities they serve. The remaining budget for operations, equipment, training and supplies and insurance is supplied through customer billing as well as donations, grants and fundraising efforts throughout the year.
The largest fundraiser of the year is the annual Lake Mills EMS Chili Supper and Silent Auction. This year’s event will be held on February 22nd, 2020 from 4-7 p.m. at the Lake Mills High School. Please consider attending this event and/or providing a donation of cash or silent auction items or services to help support the ongoing mission of the Lake Mills EMS to provide pre-hospital emergency care and transport for your community. The Lake Mills EMS could not exist without the ongoing, generous support of the community and local businesses and selfless volunteers throughout the years.