Though the Waunakee Area EMS has two ambulances to respond to emergency calls in its district, without fully staffing both, the responders miss an average of 120 calls each year.
The district is looking to change that, but with the change comes a cost. EMS Director Scott Russell appeared before the Waunakee Village Board Oct. 7 to provide details behind the numbers in the 2020 budget.
“There are some changes coming forward, and so we figured this was a good year for Scott to show you in greater detail what we’re looking at with EMS this year and in years to come,” Village Administrator Todd Schmidt told the board.
Right now, the EMS staffs one ambulance 24 hours per day, seven days a week, Russell said.
“That means we have a back-up vehicle that answers calls just based on staffing whoever’s in town and can come out,” Russell said. “Unfortunately, that’s not a very sustainable model.”
When Waunakee EMS misses a call, mutual aid from a neighboring EMS district responds, increasing the wait time.
In an effort to fully staff the second ambulance, past and current members of the district created a five-year plan to start this year.
“What this next year’s budget includes…it includes bringing on board three more full-time employees,” Russell said, adding that the department would move up to a single-paramedic level.
Right now, the district operates at an advanced EMT level, which allows the responders to start IVs and give medications to patients.
“By moving up a level, it will increase our medications by about 47 different medications that we can give, as well as increasing our procedures,” Russell said.
The district plans to implement what Russell called a “jump car.” The primary ambulance would be staffed as it is today, with one paramedic and qualified volunteer. The paramedic would be on the second ambulance, or “jump car,” and if no paramedic is needed, the paramedic would bring the jump car back to the station.
Russell said he understood that the budget increase was a “big hit” but added that the EMS has a reserve fund to make up difference.
The EMS District is proposing a 15.7 percent increase for Waunakee, equaling just under $40,000. The district also comprises surrounding towns such as Westport, Springfield and Dane, which share the cost.
Russell noted that the cost per capita for EMS services is $17.50 currently and would increase to $20 per capita by 2020, the fifth lowest in Dane County; by the end of the five-year plan it would be close to $27.50.
“This is a huge step for us in getting that second ambulance on board and moving up into the next level of licensure,” he said.
Russell noted that the plan’s model calls for retaining volunteer EMTs while moving up to the paramedic level. The EMS commission has also agreed to have Russell send volunteers through the paramedic course, so the district can train its own people and keep them on staff, he added. Those EMTs will have to sign a two-year contract to remain with the Waunakee EMS.
Trustee Bill Ranum, who serves on the commission, noted that $20 per person is a “phenomenal” price.
“The cost and quality are enormous, and the volunteers are amazing,” Ranum said. “I endorse what we are doing here.” Ranum added that in a village the size of Waunakee’s, a paramedic level is needed.
Waunakee EMS is celebrating its 40th year of service. The district and community members had a monument created outside of the EMS station honoring not only the founding members and history of the department but all members who have served 15 years or more.
“In my short time, the number of people who have given over 15 years, or 10 years for that fact, is absolutely astonishing,” Russell said, adding that the average amount of time served in most districts is less than two years for a volunteer.
“So to have people that give 10, 15 or 20 years – we have one individual who has 39 years… it’s unheard of,” Russell said.