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By LeAnn R. Ralph
BOYCEVILLE — When one person works 300 hours in two weeks — that does not seem very sustainable.
Wayne Dow, director of the Boyceville Community Ambulance Service, reported at the ambulance district board’s December 15 meeting that in the month of November, there was one EMT on duty 57.8 percent of the time, there were two EMTs on duty 39 percent of the time, and Boyceville was “out of service” for 3.2 percent of the time.
From December 1 to December 14, there was one EMT on duty 77.9 percent of the time, there were two EMTs on duty 20.4 percent of the time, and Boyceville was out of service 1.7 percent of the time.
There are 14 EMTs on the roster, and one new prospective EMT was scheduled to take the certification test the following week, Dow said.
Dow also reported he had talked to five people who had expressed interest in taking the EMT class.
In addition, Dow said he had talked with the regional EMS director, and Boyceville is meeting the requirements for ambulance service.
According to the regulations, Dow can take the ambulance out on a call by himself and can act as a first responder for someone who needs medical attention, but he cannot transport the patient.
Since there are situations where Dow is the only person on duty, the Boyceville ambulance district has contracted with Menomonie, Colfax and Glenwood City to respond to transport patients when Boyceville cannot transport.
Menomonie would like a new coverage agreement that would include itemization for the ambulance, personnel and overtime, which would probably increase the cost for each transport from $500 to about $700, Dow said.
Menomonie transported seven patients in the month of November, according to Dow’s report to the ambulance district board.
Bob Anderson, representative for the Town of Stanton, asked about Dow going out by himself with the ambulance on fire calls.
“It depends,” Dow said, noting that in November, there were three fire calls — one trailer fire, one combine fire and an alarm at school.
Dow reiterated that he can go out on the call by himself as a first responder but that he cannot transport a patient if he is alone.
With the coverage agreements, if one other EMT arrives on the scene, then the patient could be transported with the Boyceville ambulance, he said.
Anderson asked how long it would take the Boyceville ambulance service to get back to “normal” with a full EMT roster.
“Everybody in the nation wonders that. No one has a crystal ball on how to get more people,” Dow said.
If the ambulance district board is expecting 30 EMTs on the roster, it could take two or three years, or maybe longer, he said.
Anderson asked how long Dow would be able to handle the ambulance service by himself.
“I have a date in mind (of when to quit),” Dow replied.
Luke Montgomery, representative for the Village of Boyceville, asked how many hours Dow had been working.
It’s been 300 hours in the past two weeks, Dow said.
Another ambulance district board member wondered how much that amounted to in compensation.
For 300 hours at $10 per hour, that’s $3,000, Dow said.
“If someone takes a shift, that person should get paid,” commented Pete Score, representative for the Town of Sheridan and chair of the ambulance district board.
Dow is currently paid $18,000 per year for being the director of the ambulance service.
Ned Hahn, representative for the Town of Hay River, said he “had a problem with one guy getting all of it.”
Hahn did not elaborate on whether the “it” referred to the number of hours worked or the money — whether he would object because Dow is working 300 hours in two weeks and that there should be more EMTs working or whether he would object because he does not think one person working as an EMT should make that much money in two weeks.
Russell Hitz, representative for the Town of Hay River, asked how many EMTs are on the Boyceville roster.
“Fourteen,” Dow replied.
Why are the other EMTs not taking shifts? Hitz asked.
“I do not know,” Dow replied.
Hitz said Dow would have to “do something to get them to do some work.”
The EMTs are volunteers, and volunteers cannot be compelled to work, Dow said.
If the EMTs are not working, then they should not be on the roster, Hitz said.
Dow noted that he is grateful for everyone who puts in hours at the ambulance service, especially now during the holiday season.
“I have no magic answer,” he said.
Hahn wondered how many of the 14 have worked.
Four have worked this month, Dow said.
The ambulance district should have policies pertaining to shifts so that if EMTs are not working, they are taken off the roster, Score said.
Dow should create a policy that the ambulance district board could consider for approval at next month’s meeting, he said.
The policy should include minimum hours, Montgomery said.
Several of those on the roster are college students who are away at school now, Dow said.
There can be accommodations for different situations, Hahn said.
“It is ridiculous” if the volunteers do not work, Hitz said.
All together, about 40 people attended the ambulance district meeting.
When it came time for the public comments portion of the agenda, Score said people would have three minutes to make their comments.
The ambulance district meetings are run according to Robert’s Rules of Order, and the public comment section of the agenda is not a “back and forth” with the board, he said.
Audience members can ask questions of the board, but the board cannot respond and get into a back-and-forth, Score said.
According to the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law Compliance Guide, “the open meetings law grants citizens the right to attend and observe open session meetings of governmental bodies, but does not require a governmental body to allow members of the public to speak or actively participate in the body’s meeting … Although it is not required, the open meetings law does permit a governmental body to set aside a portion of an open meeting as a public comment period. Such a period must be included on the meeting notice. During such a period, the body may receive information from the public and may discuss any matter raised by the public. If a member of the public raises a subject that does not appear on the meeting notice, however, it is advisable to limit discussion of that subject and to defer any extensive deliberation to a later meeting for which more specific notice can be given.”
Score asked those making public comments to sign in and to include their addresses so that the ambulance district clerk would have the information for her records.
Cory Green, Boyceville fire chief, said he had a comment he wanted to make.
Score reminded Green that he had not signed in to make public comments.
Green did not sign in, but instead, informed the Tribune Press Reporter that his comments were “off the record.”
It should be noted that the meeting of the Boyceville ambulance district board was a public meeting, that was publicly noticed, with a sizable audience in attendance that contained members of the public.
It should also be noted that an entire roomful of people heard Green’s comments and are free to discuss them with others in the community who were not at the meeting.
Green informed the ambulance district board that he did not appreciate the ambulance district board meeting at the fire station since the Town of Sheridan is not a member of the fire district.
While the Town of Sheridan is not a member of the fire district, the other municipalities in the ambulance district are also members of the fire district, which includes the Village of Boyceville, and the Towns of Hay River, New Haven, Sherman, Stanton and Tiffany.
The Boyceville fire district has been meeting quarterly, but the Boyceville ambulance district board decided to keep meeting monthly during Dow’s first year as ambulance service director to provide as much support as they could.
At the November meeting, members of the ambulance district pointed out that the fire district would be meeting in December, and as a matter of convenience, perhaps the ambulance district and fire district could both meet at the fire station on the same date, with the ambulance district meeting following the fire district meeting.
Prior to this, the ambulance district board has been holding their monthly meetings at the ambulance station.
Before the Boyceville fire district began holding quarterly meetings, the fire district and the ambulance district met on the same evening for many years. For most of the time, those meetings were at the Boyceville village hall, both when the village hall was downtown and in later years after the village hall moved to Charlotte Street.
Before walking out of the meeting, Green told the ambulance district board that he hoped they could work something out, presumably about the number of EMTs available, because he was “tired of getting phone calls.”
Trudi Chernak of Boyceville was the first person Score called upon for comments.
Chernak said she believed Wayne Dow was “doing a great job” and that “it is not right his name is dragged through the mud.”
Shanna Knops [an EMT with the Boyceville ambulance service] wants to be EMS chief because then “they will come back,” she said.
Chernak said she hoped the ambulance district board would not consider Knops for EMS chief.
In saying “they will come back,” Chernak was referring to the resignation of EMTs from Boyceville after Dow was hired as the EMS chief earlier this year.
Why not you?
Tim Fasbender, a volunteer for the Boyceville fire department, said he has been in EMS and fire for 25 years.
“You should ask yourselves why aren’t YOU on the ambulance service?” he said, including the audience in his question.
Boyceville can have a volunteer service or a career service requiring increased wages and providing benefits, he said.
“Why don’t YOU have your license?” Fasbender asked.
The state has been increasing the requirements for EMTs, making it more difficult to recruit volunteers, he said.
“If you figure it out, you will have solved the national EMT shortage,” Fasbender said.
Another solution might be to combine ambulance services, such as Glenwood City and Boyceville, he said.
Fasbender noted that the City of Nekoosa is losing their ambulance service because of difficulty in finding EMS workers.
If the Boyceville ambulance district can figure out the solution to finding EMTs, “let Nekoosa know,” he said.
Ryan Swenby said the ambulance had been called for his wife and that the Boyceville ambulance had to “sit in the yard” and wait for Glenwood City to arrive.
Boyceville does not have enough coverage when two are needed for transport but there are not two EMTs on duty, he said.
“Look at it as the service that’s needed … that was the longest 20 minutes of my life,” he said.
Shanna Knops said she has been a volunteer for 10 years and is a volunteer first responder, noting that she also has a full-time job.
Knops pointed out she has been taking shifts at the Boyceville ambulance service and that she “did not need to be dragged through the mud.”
It is frustrating if you have to tell people that the ambulance cannot take their loved one for medical care until another ambulance arrives, she said.
Tom Schoonover said it was not “good politics” for Dow to respond on calls by himself.
Rod Swenby said it had been “a fool’s errand” for Dow to respond to the call at his son’s place.
People have been told to pose questions to their local representatives, but Swenby said he did not believe his local representative, Marv Prestrud, chair of the New Haven Town Board and New Haven’s representative on the ambulance district, had been taking his concerns to the ambulance district board.
“I think it’s poorly run all the way around,” he said.
Dunn County dispatches ambulances according to their coverage area. If an ambulance is unavailable for one reason or another, the ambulance service director has, at times, asked for another ambulance to sit on stand-by.
For example, if either Colfax or Boyceville has been unavailable in the past, Colfax or Boyceville would sometimes sit in Wheeler to provide coverage for both service areas until the first ambulance was finished with the run or more EMTs were able to respond to the ambulance station so the second ambulance would be ready to respond.
Colfax also has, at times, asked Menomonie to sit on stand-by in Colfax when needed, until the ambulance is finished with the run or more EMTs have been able to arrive.
Sitting on stand-by is a temporary solution.
Permanently placing an ambulance on stand-by for Boyceville from Colfax or Menomonie or Glenwood City would not be possible and is the reason for the service agreements Boyceville has with other ambulance services.