September 17, 2008

Ambulance Plan Revised

By Marcus, Samantha

La Crosse leaders are retreating from a city-run ambulance proposal that drew widespread public opposition. A revised and greatly reduced plan was formally introduced at Thursday's La Crosse Common Council meeting.

The new resolution still would create a Joint Emergency Medical Service Commission but deletes the more controversial element authorizing the purchase of two ambulances and allowing 12 firefighters to train as paramedics.

"What we've learned is we need to take this one step at a time," Mayor Mark Johnsrud said Thursday.

While it doesn't rule out the possibility the city will venture into ambulance service in the future, it no longer would have a timetable for buying vehicles and equipment, he added.

"If the need were to arise, I think the commission would make that decision," council president Bill Harnden said.

Council member Bruce Ranis took a different approach, formally requesting a public referendum on whether the city should purchase two ambulances for the fire department.

"That (cost) is way, way, way too much to get into a service that's working well," Ranis said. "This is a very foolish idea."

The joint commission would have 11 voting members, including mayors of La Crosse and Onalaska, the La Crosse County Board chairman find vice chairman, two La Crosse city council members, representatives from Gundersen Lutheran and Franciscan Skemp medical centers, a village president, a town board member and a citizen representative from La Crosse.

The most notable change to the commission structure would be the inclusion of two non-voting, ex-officio physicians sought by Tri- State Ambulance officials.

Tri-State Ambulance Director Matt Zavadsky said he was made aware of the changes but was not yet prepared to comment.

The commission would oversee standards, protocol and care quality, among other things.

"We need a way to ensure the constituency of the city of La Crosse is getting the best service possible," Harnden said. "And there are so many ideas coming from so many directions that this is a way to harness all those ideas and put it into a workable model that everyone can live with."

The earliest the council could vote on either measure is Sept. 11 during its regular council cycle.

Copyright La Crosse Tribune Aug 15, 2008

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