Jacksonville Municipal Ambulance Commission Fails to Meet Quorum, LifeStar Disagrees with New Requirements in Draft Ordinance

By Benjamin Cox on May 3, 2024 at 12:08pm

The City of Jacksonville’s Ambulance Commission was supposed to meet Thursday morning, but not enough members showed up to make it official.

The commission failed to reach a quorum of members to take action on the two scheduled items – 1. the city’s current Emergency Services ordinance and 2. the application by Echo Ambulance to become a second licensed emergency services provider for the city.

West Central Joint Dispatch Coordinator and Morgan County Emergency Management Director Phil McCarty says that some of the members of the commission possibly didn’t get the message there was a scheduled meeting: “I don’t know if we got some bad email addresses or something that went wrong with sending out the information, but it certainly hampered the commission’s ability to move anything forward.”

Despite the inability to take action, President of LifeStar Ambulance Service Roger Campbell and Echo Ambulance owner Danny Kloever were present along with a few members of the commission. McCarty handed out a proposed draft of the city’s Emergency Services ordinance for the group to discuss. According to McCarty, the draft removed obsolete language, removed language that was already covered in state law under the Illinois Department of Public Health’s EMS Act, and created a list of minimum requirements for current emergency services.

The minimum requirements also established a per day fine for any ambulance service that failed to meet minimum ambulance requirements as a way to hold services to account for missing and/or delayed response times to 9-1-1 calls. It also established a fee structure that ambulance services would have to pay if members of the Jacksonville Fire Department would have to peel away to complete an ambulance crew to assist on calls.

The new ordinance also proposes a level of fines for any ambulance service that does not give the city at least a 90-day notice that they will be terminating services.

Roger Campbell told the group that if the Jacksonville City Council were to pass the draft ordinance in its current form, LifeStar would not renew its license and leave the city on January 1, 2025.

McCarty says that LifeStar has concerns about the accountability standards placed in the language of the draft: “LifeStar Ambulance had some concerns about some of the sections of the ordinance. We are going to take it back and take it under advisement to see what the commission wants to do and go from there. It appears that [Echo Ambulance] didn’t speak up about the ordinance. I won’t comment on that. We’ll just see how it goes.”

The new ordinance would require emergency services providers to have 3 staffed ambulances in the City of Jacksonville to answer emergency, 9-1-1 calls while 1 ambulance would be set aside for transfers from Jacksonville Memorial Hospital and private calls. Currently, Echo Ambulance is only available to do transfers from JMH due to a private contractual agreement and they are not able to answer 9-1-1 calls. Kloever and Echo have previously proposed adding an additional E-9-1-1 unit only to help with the city’s response to emergency services calls. Kloever says that he is trying to help fill the gap in services, due to a large number of recorded missed emergency calls in the city and that citizens have asked them to apply to become an EMS provider.

Campbell reminded those in attendance on multiple occasions on Thursday morning about the city’s situation in 2018 when America Ambulance service left on short notice, causing a state of flux for emergency services. Campbell also said that it was extremely difficult for ambulance services around the country to find and retain staff for ambulances, citing increased state regulations and the difficulty in passing basic paramedic courses among other factors.

Despite the explanations, McCarty and Campbell entered into several heated exchanges over accountability for missed emergency calls and LifeStar’s inability to meet the requirements in the current ordinance. Ambulance Commission members have previously expressed that they wanted a system in place to hold emergency service providers accountable for missing basic requirements and for leaving the city under short notice.

When WLDS News asked the group directly who would be held liable in a lawsuit for missing standards and failing to get to 9-1-1 calls in a timely manner resulting in severe injury or possible death, Campbell replied that everyone in the room should be sued.

When questioned directly about particular examples of missed calls or long wait time examples within the last three years in the City of Jacksonville, no direct answers for the accountability on those instances were given.

McCarty said during the meeting that the ultimate mission of everyone involved was to answer emergency calls and take care of the safety of the citizens of the city.

No date for the next ambulance commission meeting was set at the end of the meeting.