(Waupun) With ambulance calls on the rise, officials in Waupun are hammering out a plan that would utilize trained volunteers to bolster emergency medical services. City Administrator Kathy Schlieve says 9-1-1 ambulance calls during the fourth quarter of 2020 were up 30-percent over the same time period one year earlier, while calls from the prisons increased 25-percent during the same time period.
“Primary call response types fueling the increase include falls, including those with no transport; mental health; and other increasing medical needs for people in our community,” Schlieve says adding that community demographics are contributing to this growing demand as the population ages and sees increases in mental health and other medical needs.
The city, which contracts with Lifestar Ambulance, is the hub for the Waupun Ambulance District. The district includes the towns of Alto, Metomen, Oakfield, Springvale, Chester, Trenton and Waupun, and the villages of Brandon and Oakfield. Additionally, county-level mutual aid agreements are in place to ensure adequate 9-1-1 coverage.
City officials are developing a plan with Dan Williams of Strategic Management Resources to supplement the current ambulance service with the addition of Emergency Medical Responders, a group of volunteers trained to provide preliminary response until an ambulance arrives on scene.
The common council has approved a plan to train up to ten volunteer responders this year at a cost of not to exceed $15-thousand dollars. At the same time, city staff is working on an operational plan for the EMR service with the goal of being fully operational by next year or earlier. The estimated cost for year one, which includes training, is estimated at around $50-thousand dollars, though grants and potential partnerships may reduce those costs. That compares to adding a third ambulance, which would cost around $350-thousand dollars.
Fire Chief B.J. DeMaa says “readiness comes at a cost” but residents deserve assurances that no gaps exist when they call 9-1-1. He says volunteer EMR’s will strengthen the EMS system. DeMaa notes that members of fire department and the community at large have inquired in the past about a city-run run EMR program and he believes the interest is there to fill the volunteer positions.