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Chillicothe Times-Bulletin - Chillicothe, IL
  • PAEMS looking into who chooses provider outside the city

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  • Despite an outpouring of support for Rescue 33 from the community Thursday night, residents of Chillicothe are no closer to determining who will provide their emergency services.
    And the entity that gets to decide whether Rescue 33 can return to active work added more wrinkles to the decision Friday with a statement indicating that the ambulance service's recertification won't be a quick process.
    Peoria Area Emergency Medical Services System said through its lawyer, Douglass Marshall, that it won't rush any decision on the matter.
    It also at once clarified and clouded the issue of which government gets to decide the provider — Rescue 33 or its interim replacement, Peoria-based Advanced Medical Transport — residents will have responding to their emergency calls.
    "The problems which led to the permanent suspension of Rescue 33's license were numerous and cannot be fixed by simply submitting a business plan to (PAEMS)," the statement from Marshall read. "It is a lengthy process to review each point of Rescue 33's business plan and application for reinstatement of its license. PAEMS needs to review the plan in detail, ensure that the plan and application remedy the problems which led to suspension, comply with State EMS regulations and the Standards and Policies of PAEMS, verify Rescue 33's ability to meet such regulations, standards and policies, and determine whether or not Rescue 33 has the resources to do so."
    Several hundred people attended a meeting Thursday night to voice support for Rescue 33 and to urge the Chillicothe City Council to select it over AMT for future service. However, the council's decision becomes irrelevant if PAEMS decides not to reinstate Rescue 33's license. No firm date has been set for the council's vote.
    Moreover, the PAEMS statement makes it clear that Chillicothe's council can select a provider only for the city itself. Fully 60 percent of the calls Rescue 33 responded to were outside the city limits. Those individuals in unincorporated areas could see a different choice, PAEMS said, based on a decision made by their local fire protection district or by the Peoria County Board.
    "It's more confusing to me than it ever was," Chillicothe Mayor Troy Childers said of the statement and the new questions it created.
    PAEMS is consulting with the State's Attorney's Office and the County Board to determine where the authority rests. AMT executive director Andrew Rand, also a member of the Peoria County Board, said it was his understanding that under the law the decision rested with local fire districts.
    He also decried the inflamed rhetoric recently at public meetings over the choice between a possibly reinstated Rescue 33 and AMT.
    "It's clear that the EMS system's attorneys are seeking to clarify the complex expectations that any (group) must meet to comply with the EMS Act," Rand said of the statement.
    Page 2 of 2 - In the meantime, Childers expressed concern for what this meant for those inside the city limits who may find themselves in need of medical attention.
    "It's a very, very hard thing for all the citizens of Chillicothe," he said. "(They need to) know who's going to be their ambulance service if they get sick."
    After not having a public response initially, Rescue 33's attorney, Chris Cassidy, released a statement Saturday afternoon.
    "Judging from releases, meetings, and public comments, it is clear that the issues involved in Rescue 33's attempts at reinstatement are getting confused causing a lot of misunderstanding," wrote Cassidy. "In reality, the procedure is very simple as long as the separate steps are not confused and misinterpreted."
    Cassidy wrote of a three-step process with different timelines.
    First, the city needs to indicate its preference.
    If it is Rescue 33, then PAEMS will evaluate their application.
    The third part of the process is if the city should be making the decision for the entire Rescue 33 service area, which goes outside city limits.
    "When PAEMS indicated that it wanted a preference from Chillicothe, it was probably just an oversight that the other governments were not asked for their input," Cassidy wrote.
    "That is why Rescue 33 approached them separately and asked them to make the same decision as the City of Chillicothe. Four of these five units of government have taken a stance and issued opinions; the remaining township meets this coming week. Consequently, the City is only being asked to decide for its own jurisdiction. Therefore, it is hoped that the City of Chillicothe will also take a stance at its Jan. 28 meeting and indicate its preference."
    Childers had said previously that he expected a council decision by the end of February, but Cassidy said Rescue 33 is asking for a decision earlier to keep the process moving.
    — Marianne Gillespie contributed to this story.
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