Chesterton Tribune



CFD eyes in-house ALS capability

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Earlier this year, the Chesterton Town Council approved a one-time, one-year extension of Superior Ambulance Service’s three-year contract to provide dedicated advance life support EMS to residents, by means of a permanently crewed ambulance headquartered 24/7 at the CFD station.

That contract extension will expire on May 31, 2017, and Fire Chief John Jarka is now recommending that the council issue a request for proposals from any regional ALS providers--including Superior and Porter Regional Hospital--interested in negotiating a similar arrangement with the town.

Jarka, however--like his predecessor, Mike Orlich--remains committed to the possibility of the CFD’s providing ALS services on an in-house basis, and with that in mind submitted a memo to the council at its meeting Monday night detailing the main obstacle to an in-house ALS capability still to be overcome: manpower.

According to Jarka’s memo, organic ALS would require the hiring of a part-time paramedic, part-time in the sense that one paramedic would be needed per 24-hour shift to supplement the EMTs already on staff. A different paramedic would be slotted into each shift and the pool of paramedics--perhaps 20 over the course of a year--would be drawn from other 911 response agencies. The Schererville FD, the Lake of the Four Seasons FD, and Wheatfield EMS all make use of part-time paramedics, Jarka states in the memo.

Jarka estimates the total annual cost of a paramedic at $163,765:

* $157,680 in total hourly cost: 24 hours x $18 per hour x 365 days.

* Plus $6,085: $4,885 in workers comp, $800 in payroll liability, and $400 in general liability.

That amount is not available in the CFD budget and would need to be found somewhere else in the town’s “coffers,” as Jarka told the Chesterton Tribune.

When former Fire Chief Orlich first broached the possibility of an in-house ALS capability, around four years ago, he made note of several other obstacles. Those, for the most part, have since been removed, Jarka said. For one thing, the CFD is now in possession of its own ambulance, previously owned by the Burns Harbor FD but swapped earlier this year for the CFD’s old rescue truck. Agreements could be made with other agencies or ALS providers for a timely loaner ambulance should the CFD’s be taken out of service for repairs.

That ambulance would be outfitted with supplies with a one-time purchase from the CFD Gift Fund, Jarka added. Used supplies would subsequently be replaced by receiving hospitals.

Meanwhile, mutual-aid agreements currently in effect with Porter Regional Hospital and other agencies would provide backup EMS should it be needed.

Four years ago the CFD originally estimated that an in-house ALS service would make 657 transports per year. The number of transports is important, because revenues to support organic ALS depend on collecting from patients’ insurance. As it happens, Jarka said, those estimates were pretty accurate. In its first year Superior performed 629 transports and collected $261,378.19; in the second year, 678 transports and $323,954.88; in the third year, 651 transports and $289,213.56; and in the fourth year Superior is on track to make 640 transports.

Members took Jarka’s memo under advisement.



Posted 11/16/2016




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