Rescue 33 faces another hurdle to revival

Scott Hilyard GateHouse Media Illinois

Maybe not so fast.

Last week’s news of the imminent resurrection of the decertified Ambulance Rescue 33 ambulance service might have been premature.

The ambulance service, idle since September 2012, when its license to operate was revoked, still needs a mutual aid agreement with another emergency medical service provider to keep the licensing process moving forward.

As of Friday, it didn’t have one.

It turns out a document described as a mutual aid agreement with the Henry Community Ambulance service was “actually just a document of support for Rescue 33 from the Henry Police Department,” said Doug Marshall, an attorney for the Peoria Area Emergency Medical Services, the agency that monitors the operation of area ambulance services.

The letter, signed by Henry police Chief Steve Maurer, didn’t satisfy the requirements of a mutual aid agreement, Marshall said. Maurer was the police chief in Chillicothe, the home base for Rescue 33, for 28 years.

Nelson Stubbs, the president of the Henry Community Ambulance board of directors, said his board has taken no action with regards to a mutual aid agreement with Rescue 33.

“Rescue 33 was pushing for a mutual aid agreement,” Stubbs said this week. “But it’s sort of a chicken or the egg situation. They need a mutual aid agreement to get a license, but my board won’t sign on with an unlicensed service.”

Actually, the Henry ambulance board could sign an agreement with an unlicensed Rescue 33 

to have it answer Henry ambulance calls if Henry ambulances are on other calls, according to Marshall.

“All that any emergency medical service provider would have to agree to is a mutual aid agreement to be effective in the event of Rescue 33 attaining a license,” Marshall said Friday. “On May 12, 2014, PAEMS informed Ambulance Rescue 33 that, except for submitting a mutual aid agreement, Ambulance Rescue 33’s license application had been approved. That remains the case.”

PAEMS doesn’t approve the actual license, Marshall emphasized. It approves the application when all criteria on a checklist have been met; the emergency medical services division of the State Department of Public Health approves the license.

Rescue 33 intends to return as a pay-for-service advance life support ambulance service, an upgrade from the volunteer and free basic life support service it lost when it repeatedly failed to meet minimum standards even while on probation in 2012.

Its first coverage area would be a fraction of what it used to cover before its license was revoked — only the village of Hopewell in Marshall County has agreed to use its services. The city of Chillicothe approved a five-year contract with Peoria-based Advanced Medical Transport about a year ago.

Chillicothe Mayor Doug Crew said city residents should not expect a switch-

over to Rescue 33 if it obtains an advance life support license.

“As far as I’m concerned, we have a contract with AMT for four more years,” Crew said this week. “We’re almost a year into their service, and I think they have done a good job.”