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Chillicothe Times-Bulletin - Chillicothe, IL
  • Aldermen say they lack expertise to decide ambulance provider

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  • The city’s police/fire committee began its wrestling with the issue of which ambulance service provider to choose — Rescue 33 or Advanced Medical Transport — at its meeting Jan. 15.
    Chairman Chris Boyer said he expects the committee will operate as it does normally with taking its recommendation to the full Chillicothe City Council. Along with Boyer, Aldermen Sandi Levell and Mike Hughes comprise the committee, but also attending the meeting were Mayor Troy Childers, Alderman Gary Sharp and City Attorney Mike Seghetti.
    Boyer began with a short rehash of what had transpired months ago. Rescue 33 had its license permanently suspended by the Peoria Area EMS system with its tones going silent Sept. 4.
    AMT came to Chillicothe to fill in as Rescue 33 worked on an appeal, which it lost, and began working on a new business plan.
    About the time that Rescue 33 turned in a new application, AMT turned in one as well, adding Chillicothe to its operational
    area.
    After some discussion, the officials said it seemed that the medical director overseeing the ambulance squads, Dr. Cheryl Colbenson, expressed verbally that city officials needed to make a decision over who should be the provider.
    “It’s not a medical decision you’re being asked to make. It’s a decision whether you support Rescue 33,” said Ron Hedden, president of Rescue 33.
    Hedden said the squad would be “better than before.” Rescue 33 had its license permanently suspended from the EMS system mainly due to scheduling problems, but the squad maybe be able to receive a new license with a different business plan.
    Under the new plan, two paid EMTs would be at the garage around the clock.
    At least a five-member board of directors — currently Jim Ladd, Paul Buob, Greg Truninger, Ted Bailey and Jud Bruce — also is part of the new plan. Part of the problem in the past, Hedden said, was Colbenson wanted to address issues with the squad, but did not want to talk to all 30 of the squad’s membership, who made up the board.
    He mentioned the squad’s finances of continuing its fundraisers and billing to raise the necessary funds to pay EMTs and operate Rescue 33.
    Rescue 33 attorney, Chris Cassidy, also told the aldermen he understood some of them expressed that they did not have the qualifications to make this kind of a decision.
    Colbenson, however, would still go through Rescue 33’s application and approve it before it goes to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
    “The people should speak through their elected officials,” said Cassidy.
    Boyer expressed his frustration with the aldermen making a decision about the topic.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We don’t have guidance from anybody right now. Even if we said yes to you or yes to AMT, we’re still not getting that guidance to make that right decision. I think for us to make that decision — eight people to make that decision — only 40 percent of where you guys are servicing, that’s a lot of burden and there’s a lot of emotion in this. I don’t think it’s fair for us to make that decision because we aren’t qualified for it …”
    Cassidy noted that the EMS system will judge the squad’s qualifications before it gives them a license.
    “For this being thrown back on our laps is unfair and very cowardly of the EMS system, honestly,” said Boyer.
    Seghetti said he understood Colbenson did not want to go through Rescue 33’s application if the city preferred AMT to cover the area.
    “I think she’s asked us to decide one way or other who it is that we want,” said Seghetti.
    Levell simply said, “I don’t see how you cannot back Rescue 33, any of us. We all volunteer, if you haven’t volunteered, you should get your butts out and volunteer. I mean, as long as I’ve been here, I support Rescue 33. Some of you, you haven’t been here a long time, but I think you need to stop and think.”
    Officials also stated that the decision not only affects city residents, but those outside the city. To that end, Rescue 33 officials have sought letters from the townships it provides services to in order to help aldermen make a decision.
    At the end, Boyer said he thought the committee needed more information before bringing it to council.
    Additionally, Seghetti told AMT officials that the committee was more about “procedure” of moving ahead than in making a decision that night.
    Jerry Kolb, chief financial officer for AMT, spoke briefly about some of the specifics mentioned in the committee meeting, including payment of bills, of which the company has a “very strong financial assistance program.”
    He spoke to a misconception in that there are large sums of money to be made from calls in the Chillicothe area. He said from Sept. 4 until Christmas Day, AMT is averaging less than 1.8 ambulance calls per day.
    “I can tell you that doesn’t pay for (Advanced Life Support) ambulance service, it just doesn’t,” said Kolb.
    One issue remained clear from the hour-plus meeting.
    “Please make a decision to make a letter one way or another. Don’t make a decision to not, please,” said Hedden.
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