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Asking local governments to contribute $330,000 too much, hospital should take over

The need for a local ambulance service is not questioned but how it should be paid for certainly can be debated.

Let’s go back to before 2008. The Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital operated the ambulance service and received minimal funding yearly to help purchase new ambulances. That contribution rate was set at $5.05 per resident for many years, even after the hospital got out of the business.

When the non-profit was formed to run the ambulance service, there was money in the bank and things were going well. Then massive changes hit, from the Covid mess to a change in the level of service being provided. The biggest change was to go to having an ambulance crew standing by for a call 24 hours a day.

These changes hit the bottom line, turning it from black to red. If the ambulance service was a patient, it was suddenly on life support. That support was set to come from the area government entities as well as the hospital. When the amount per person changed from $5.05 to $10.10 to $15.15, there were groans but the monies were procured.

Now that number has skyrocketed to over $300,000 a year which would require $60.60 per person in 2024. That has local governments facing very difficult decisions. Raising taxes is one and depleting reserves is another. We would like to add getting out of the ambulance business as a preferred alternative.

When the non-profit was set up to run the ambulance, local officials made sure there was a reversion clause where the hospital would have to take it back. The writing is on the wall. It’s time to begin discussions with the hospital to again provide ambulance services.

The reason given to form the non-profit back prior to 2008 was to get around certain funding formulas put in place by Medicare. If those are no longer an issue, then the answer to this problem is clear.

We would still support our local units of government to continue to financially contribute toward ambulance expenses. But not at a rate that is financially unreasonable.

There also needs to be some recognition for the local government entities and the hospital coming up with over $250,000 at the end of 2022 to keep the ambulance going. Now initially it was thought that would be enough to get through all of 2023, but now it’s clear that number is closer to $330,000.

But to see Morse, Ely, the hospital and Fall Lake through Lake County, each put up $62,500 along with $3,380 from Winton. This was the first time Morse and Fall Lake paid on an even basis with Ely instead of by population. While that was likely a one-time occurrence, it was a refreshing change.

Instead of continued arguments over who should pay how much, let’s look to the hospital to help solve this problem. They have many more solutions at their disposal. When the switch was made in 2008, local governments were dragging their feet. They should be pounding the table now to get back to the way it used to be.

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