Chesterton Tribune



Burns Harbor council pulls plug on ambulance, talking with Porter Hospital

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Burns Harbor officials have been authorized to negotiate a contract with Porter Hospital’s ambulance service to staff an ALS rig at the town’s fire station.

Fire chief Bill Arney said preliminary talks already have begun.

The Town Council decided Wednesday that having the Fire Department operate its own ALS service can’t sustain itself financially; a one-year trial period began 13 months ago.

The service didn’t transport, bill and collect enough to cover its more than $200,000 annual cost to operate the 24/7 service, most of that for paramedic staffing. The town has covered the deficit to this point.

Arney and Fire Department liaison Mike Perrine said Burns Harbor’s proposing Porter Hospital possibly lease the town’s ALS ambulance, which offers advanced medical treatment, and staff it based at the fire station at hopefully no cost to the town. The Fire Department would operate its own BLS ambulance for basic care, too.

Perrine asked that the Fire Department continue to offer ALS service in the interim while contract terms are hashed out.

Councilman Jeff Freeze said there’s no reason to have a lapse in coverage so efforts will be made to have a final contract draft ready for council consideration in January.

Last month Perrine said he would inquire if major industrial taxpayers in town, especially ArcelorMittal, would step up to help save ALS operations. CR England trucking offered to match $5,000 if the first $5,000 were raised in Tech Business Center where it’s located, said Perrine, but it wasn’t.

Some local businesses did donate funds for equipment when the ALS service was started.

The audience was nearly filled for Wednesday’s council meeting, many of them firefighters. President Jim McGee did not allow comment prior to the council’s ALS decision although public input had been voiced at several previous meetings.

After the vote Arney said it’s a disappointment the town ALS couldn’t survive, but “we’ll make the best out of a bad situation.”

Later in the meeting resident Marcus Rogala said the council is putting paramedics out of work, and it takes time for a new business to make a return on investment. “Lifesaving isn’t on a trial basis.”

Councilmen said all ALS paramedics were working part-time for Burns Harbor, often as a second job, and that there’s an ongoing effort to keep an ALS ambulance in Burns Harbor through Porter Hospital.



Posted 12/12/2013