By KEVIN NEVERS
The Chesterton Fire Department will not, after all, be establishing
its own advanced life support (ALS) municipal ambulance service.
Instead, the Town of Chesterton has contracted with Superior Ambulance
Service--the largest privately owned ambulance company in the Chicagoland
area--to provide ALS service to residents who live within the corporate
There will be no outlay of taxpayer money under the agreement. On the
contrary, there will be the opportunity for the CFD to recoup the
costs of its EMS assists.
One other important point: Superior will transport residents to the hospital
of their choice.
At its meeting Monday night, the Town Council voted 5-0 to approve a
three-year contract with Superior.
That contract is expected to take effect on June 1.
The terms of the contract:
* Superior will provide one ALS ambulance, on a 24/7/365 basis, staff it
with qualified and certified personnel--two per shift--and operate it
from the CFD station. That ambulance will have both
the Superior branding and the Town of Chesterton logo.
* Superior will provide a second backup ambulance, similarly staffed, and
operate this one from the Franciscan Alliance (FA) ER department on Indian
Boundary Road. Superior already has an exclusive contract with FA to provide
ambulance service at the ER, but the FA logo will be removed from this
second ambulance. Again, Superior will transport Chesterton residents
to the hospital of their choice, Fire Chief Mike
Orlich emphasized. “The largest majority of residents prefer the Porter
(Regional Hospital) facility and that will be honored,” he said.
* Under the contract, the estimated time of arrival for the second backup
ambulance may not exceed 10 minutes.
* Although Superior shall supervise and control its own employees--none of
whom will be considered or deemed to be considered municipal employees of
the Town of Chesterton--Orlich or his designee will have
“operational control over the ALS ambulances when such
operational control is necessary for the efficient deployment of the town’s
emergency response system.”
* Superior will accept Medicare and Medicaid on all claims for covered
services. Superior will bill third-party payers at
“its usual and customary rates for all services,” and will bill the patient
for any charges not covered by the third-party payer.
* The contract specifies that Superior’s annual
operating cost, in the first year of the contract, is $450,000. Should
Superior recover “gross receipts” in excess of $450,000, it will split the
surplus gross receipts 50/50 with the Town of Chesterton, “up to an amount
equal to the percentage of the town’s budgeted expenses which are
attributable to EMS during the time period.” In other words, the town
will have an opportunity to recoup the costs associated with EMS
assists, incurred in salary and benefits, supplies, equipment, and so forth.
* Superior must carry, at all times, insurance providing coverage for bodily
injury, personal injury, and contract liability with a minimum combined
single limit of $10 million per occurrence or claim made and $10 million
The contract specifically states that Superior will “respond to
locations outside of the town limits when so requested pursuant to a mutual
At the moment, however, no such mutual aid agreements have been finalized,
Orlich told the Chesterton Tribune after the meeting.
By the same token, the contract does not preclude any other ambulance
service from responding to a scene within the town’s
corporate limits--Porter EMS, for example, not to put too fine a point on
it--but again, a mutual aid agreement would have to be in place first
particularizing the terms under which any other ALS service could and would
respond, Orlich said.
Orlich noted that he is currently making contact not only with Porter
Regional Hospital but with other ALS providers--the Portage and Burns Harbor
fire departments, to name two more--to establish mutual aid agreements.
“We have a good working relationship with (Porter
Regional Hospital),” Orlich said. “And we will be relying on mutual aid as
we have in the past. There will be times when Porter doesn’t have enough
ambulances and there will be times when we don’t.”
On a different subject, Orlich noted that the 911 Dispatch Center--equipped
with computer aid dispatch (CAD)--will know when a call requiring an ALS
response originates within the town’s corporate limits
and when it does not, because the place of origin will determine whether
Superior is dispatched to the scene or Porter EMS.
Orlich told the council on Monday that the whole point of establishing a
town-dedicated ALS service was to improve the quality of EMS available to
residents. “Our goal was to provide the best level of service to residents,”
he said. “This contract meets our goal, meets our need, and our costs are
“My hat is off to the Fire Department,” said Member Jeff Trout, R-2nd. “The
No. 1 goal was to improve service to the residents of the Town of
Chesterton. But our hands were tied behind our back financially (with
respect to a municipal ALS service). We said to you, ‘Great idea but could
you look for an alternative?’ And you did. And we’re not spending any
taxpayers’ money. It adds no cost but improves the quality of life.”
Added Member Jim Ton, R-1st, “My awareness of (Superior’s) quality of
service goes back a long time.”