Ambulance problems too common

Two area ambulance services are struggling with one crucial component: having enough employees to respond to calls.
In Babbitt the problem falls in the daytime hours when many of the ambulance personnel are working, either at Northshore Mine or another 9-5 job.
The Babbitt city council has temporarily authorized sending an on duty police officer to respond to calls so there is someone to drive the ambulance. Since the Babbitt ambulance covers from Embarrass to Highway 1 and up to the Blueberry Road, much of the area is outside the coverage of the Babbitt police department.
Options to solve the problem include creating a full-time position to work the daytime hours and insure there is someone available to respond. The cost could be as high as $82,000 a year.
In Ely, the problem lies with low wages for standby workers. The Ely Area Ambulance Service currently rents a house for employees to stay at since half of them don’t live here.
One solution is to build a $1.4 million facility that would house ambulances, have office and training spaces along with living quarters.
For the government entities that make up the joint powers board that helps fund the Ely ambulance service, paying for a $1.4 million building is only part of the pill they would have to swallow.
Also on the table is a request for $200,000 in additional funding to increase wages and personnel. This could be offset by being able to take more runs to Duluth and other areas. Oftentimes today an ambulance comes from Tower, Virginia or even Buhl to transport someone from the Ely hospital.
In addition to the delay for the patient, this is a loss of revenue for the ambulance service.
While there may be some willingness to put more money in the pot, it’s a massive jump from how much Winton, Ely, Town of Morse and Town of Fall Lake pay now.
The current funding formula bills each entity $5.05 per resident which totals $26,000, a far cry from the $300,000 needed for a new building and additional wages. Even with the 20 percent match the hospital throws in, the total is only $32,000.
The city of Ely is backing a plan to charge a per parcel fee instead of per resident. This would dramatically change the funding split. The Town of Morse would see a major increase, something township supervisors are not in favor of, pointing to 75% of the ambulance calls in the city limits.
The Ely Area Ambulance Service, a non-profit organization, is run by officials from each entity. The EAAS is conducting a $900,000 crowd-funding drive but has only reach $2,000 so far.
The non-profit hopes to find a major donor to pay for the 6,000 square foot facility to be built on city-owned land at the corner of Pattison and Second Avenue West.
The joint powers board that oversees the ambulance held its annual meeting on Nov. 6 but couldn’t find common ground on paying for a new building or increasing the amount provided by each government entity.
The ambulance joint powers board will meet on Jan. 8 at noon in Winton to continue to explore the issue.
There’s a long run to find common ground and get everyone on the same page. We all want to have ambulance services available. How to pay for those services is a problem without a current solution.