It appears that Ambulance Rescue 33 is not only fighting to get a license to provide ambulance service for the Chillicothe area, but it also may have a turf war with Advanced Medical Transport of Central Illinois.
Rescue 33 recently received a letter from Andrew Rand, director of AMT, stating that the not-for-profit ambulance service "decided to move affirmatively to fill the breach in services by permanently amending our system plan to provide primary ambulance response and transport services to the community."
AMT came to Chillicothe to serve as the temporary ambulance provider when Rescue 33's license was permanently suspended Sept. 4. Neither the city nor the outlying areas have paid for the service, other than the patients who needed an ambulance. City officials have allowed an ambulance to be stationed at Chillicothe Fire Station No. 1.
Rescue 33, which has served the area for more than four decades, was permanently suspended mainly for slow response times and being unable to fill a schedule of two emergency medical technicians for a month in advance. Rescue 33 appealed the decision but it was upheld. The squad, which used to be run completely by volunteers, added some part-time EMTs and stayed true to its origin of not charging for an ambulance ride until its suspension.
Rand noted in his letter that he discussed with Rescue 33's board a proposal of a joint service model.
"Please recall that AMT made to you a very fair proposal to jointly provide services to the community," Rand wrote in the letter, dated Dec. 4 but Rescue 33 did not receive the letter until Dec. 13, according to Rescue 33's response.
He wrote that the AMT employees would have worked "side-by-side with our paramedics."
The group would have used Rescue 33's building and its ambulances.
Additionally, patients would have received a reduced user fee for AMT using Rescue 33's building, ambulance and equipment.
He also noted that the city's ambulance tax referendum could have been used to help fund the endeavor.
"In consideration of these facts and in the absence of any desire from Rescue 33 to partner together, AMT has elected to move forward with a permanent staffing solution that is appropriate for the community," wrote Rand.
Rescue 33's Ron Hedden issued a response to Rand.
"I think we can summarize that offer much more succinctly than done in your letter: You wanted to move into Chillicothe and take over Ambulance Rescue 33 real estate, equipment and assets. In addition, to gain community support and profit from the fundraisers, donations and bequests, you wanted to continue to use the Ambulance Rescue 33 name. In exchange, you offered to employ some of Rescue 33 personnel on your terms and conditions. I think it is pretty obvious why this plan was turned down," wrote Hedden.
Rescue 33 is currently working on getting a license to operate under a new plan, and the letter from Rand was unexpected.
"Your letter did come as quite a surprise on what you know is the eve of Ambulance Rescue 33 submitting a new system plan to restart operations," wrote Hedden.
On Friday, Hedden said he hoped an agreement between Rescue 33 and the Peoria Area EMS System could be reached and then sent to the state for approval. If all went well, he said he hoped Rescue 33 could obtain a license in February.
"We had hoped that if our plans to move forward were met with a lot of resistance that we could still work with you to try and negotiate a fairer joint plan," Hedden wrote.
Rand and the directors met Nov. 13 to discuss the plan, reportedly to be in effect for 10 years.
As to whether AMT can permanently become the ambulance provider for the area, Mayor Troy Childers Sr. said, "That's a question that a lawyer would have to answer."
He said he expected for discussion to ensue at the first council meeting in January about the topic.
Childers reiterated his call from the last council meeting for open communication from Rescue 33.
"Our loyalty is to Rescue 33, keeping in mind the safety of the community," he added.
Some residents have questioned why the AMT ambulance is now parked inside the fire station and if that has significance.
Childers said with cooler temperatures, officials are merely helping to keep medication at the right temperature and with any requests AMT officials have.
"All we're trying to do is make an ambulance service comfortable in Chillicothe," said Childers.
"My main concern with some type of ambulance service in town is if we can keep them here," he said. "I'm not going to allow Chillicothe to not have any service."