Ambulance will add extra staffing in attempt to cover additional transports

by Nick Wognum
The Ely Area Ambulance Service will put an additional two people on duty 12 hours a day in order to help cover missed transports.
The announcement came at an ambulance joint powers board meeting in Winton on Wednesday.
The second crew would work from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day and take people from Ely to Duluth or other medical facilities.
The ambulance service has been criticized for not being able to provide transports which has led to patients waiting up to 10 hours for a transport to Duluth.
The joint powers board helps to fund the ambulance through annual contributions based on population.
The towns of Morse and Fall Lake and the cities of Ely and Winton make up the ambulance joint powers board.
Board chair Kathy Brandau said the board could put a levy on property tax statements to help fund ambulance operations.
She said the two options would be to either charge based on value or to work with St. Louis and Lake counties to see if each taxpayer could be billed the same amount.
Ely mayor Chuck Novak said the county would have to be notified by July if the joint powers board was going to levy for monies. Currently each governmental unit pays $5.05 per resident from general fund monies.
While the board looks into how to levy for additional monies, the ambulance service will dip into savings to pay the additional wages, which will also be increased.
Currently EMTs are paid $10.50 an hour and paramedics are paid $11.50. Those wages would increase to $12 and $17 an hour starting March 1 in an effort to retain and attract employees.
“Ideally we’d like to go to $15 and $20 an hour,” said ambulance director Geoff Galaski.
A budget sheet listed a $45,000 loss that includes the $32,000 the joint powers contributes.