Village of South Jacksonville Fire Chief Rich Evans Jr. has put in significant time over the last year to bring back the village’s ambulance service.
The village voted on July 2, 2020 to cease operations of the service because it was not a self-sustaining service for the village’s budget. Evans told the Village Board of Trustees last night that he had formed an ambulance committee among the village’s fire department and come up with a phased-in plan to bring the ambulance service back.
Evans believes he has a good plan to make it work financially this time: “The fire department has set down and had a really good committee on the service. We’ve put a lot of plans together to make this an operation that we could sustain for years to come. We are focusing on South Jacksonville our main focus of service, and obviously helping outside agencies, as well. We’ll need their help at the same time. I think we’ve got a really good plan to work off of and hopefully we can pull it off.”
Evans says the phased-in approach will allow the ambulance service to accumulate revenue and eventually go larger to meet the demand of the community and decrease response times: “Basically, with the first phase, we are looking at to pay the EMTs and paramedic that is on call for that shift a stipend, and then if and when they were to get called in for a call, they would get paid per hour for that call. That, in kind, allows somebody that is staying home to be on call to get a little incentive for being readily available. Then, looking at Phase 2, would be to looking to implement a part-time pay at the Fire station. The final phase, which is the most ideal but the most expensive, would be to staff two people at the fire station 24-7, but it also decreases our response time to a call and provides faster patient care.”
Currently, the village is paying out approximately $40,000 on EMT services for medical calls with the fire department on an annual basis with no ability to recoup costs because the village doesn’t have a transport service with an ambulance. Evans told the board that he believes that the village could possibly receive $240,000 annually in revenue from the service. Evans said that estimate was conservative due to the area’s shortage on ambulance services. During his presentation to the Village Board on Thursday, Evans noted at least 16 instances over the last month where village residents were waiting on an ambulance to transport them for care.
Evans says he currently has his eye on a used ambulance in Mt. Vernon, Illinois that has an estimated cost of around $60,000. Evans is also upgrading the village fire and emergency response software that would come at a cost of approximately $7,700. He says it would put the village in compliance with electronic records requirements with area hospitals and make them compatible with neighboring fire department networks.
The consensus of the board was that Evans continue to gather information and move forward with trying to re-install the service. The Village Board would have to amend their current budget and vote to fund the ambulance. Evans says he is looking at all possible avenues, including grant funding and state and federal money to help get the service back going again.