To the Editor-
On Thursday, Nov. 9 at 5 PM the Portage County Board of Supervisors will be considering a decision that will affect everyone in Portage County, and I don’t believe in a good way.
Since 2000, all residents of Portage Co. have had the advantage of a countywide ambulance system. This has been contracted with the City of Stevens Point with two paramedics to provide award winning and often modeled service. This is in addition to our extensive first responders that often arrive on scene first.
The training level of each paramedic is over 1,080 hours, at minimum, before the continuing education that each participate in annually.
Service benchmarks are set by a county group of experts in their fields — and those benchmarks are continually met or exceeded and because of that two paramedic service. Portage County’s survival rate for sudden cardiac arrest is significantly better than the national average.
Even at the most recent contract negotiation, the county expressed complete satisfaction with the service they are receiving.
It is clear that the two paramedic service is the standard we hope to enjoy.
Several months ago, the county began talks of improving the system, and the city stood ready to do whatever it took to assist in those improvements. Based on response times, maps were drawn up to show where an additional ambulance would be a benefit. The data showed the most effective location would be in the Town of Plover.
The county began talks of the addition of an ambulance, but in the Village of Plover, an area already served by a response time well within the benchmarks. Response time map data showed an improved response time of less than 2 percent to areas further from the county core.
The county then chose to not seek quotes for this service, but rather negotiate directly with only the Village of Plover to provide this service, and at a reductions in staff credentials, down to only one paramedic and one EMT. Training requirements for an EMT are 185 hours. On top of that, the cost is about $630,000 annually for this reduced service.
Every taxpayer in Portage County will be paying for this reduced service.
With Plover and areas south being served now with one paramedic and one EMT, you will be paying more taxes to get less service. In addition to that, if the two currently-staffed ambulances from Stevens Point happen to be out on calls, the next ambulance may be that one from Plover. Everyone in the county will now see a lower level of service, but a marginally improved response time. In other words, they’ll get there slightly quicker, but cannot perform all of the same functions that the two-paramedic teams are allowed to.
The county could choose to pay extra for the two-paramedic level of service, even with Plover, and that’s what I hope they do. The small increase in cost, spread over the county’s 70,000 residents would be nearly insignificant.
But if the county really had the best interest of its citizens in mind, they would seek the best service for the best price rather than forsaking that duty and negotiating only with one entity at a reduced service level.
What is the real goal here? Is it to continue to provide the best available service for everyone in the county, or is it to give Plover a contract because of some unknown reason and risk fracturing an award winning, top-notch ambulance service?
I urge you to contact your County Board Supervisor, or attend the meeting on Nov. 9 and voice your opposition to this expensive reduction in service, and demand that the county only contract for a two-paramedic expansion to the system.
Mayor, City of Steven Point