Wis. fire dept. seeks to enhance EMS services

Officials said hiring paramedics would be more cost-effective

By Jim Dayton
The Janesville Gazette

MILTON, Wis. —The Milton Fire Department, like many other fire and rescue squads across Rock and Walworth counties, faces chronic staffing issues and budget shortfalls.

Despite those challenges, Milton is exploring how to enhance its EMS services. Doing so would come with an undetermined cost at a time when finances are already tight, interim Fire Chief Chris Lukas said.

“That's the biggest challenge for every department right now. Nobody has money,” he said. “Levy limits imposed on municipalities are not getting any easier.”

There are plenty of unknowns at this stage. But the department is busy enough to consider hiring full-time EMS staff, and if it does that, it would be more cost-effective to add paramedic services, Lukas said.

“Right now we're looking at anything and everything that's out there,” he said. “When you start looking at the possibility of full-time people or people who provide full-time coverage, it only makes sense to provide the highest level of care we can, especially with what it's going to cost.”

It's too early to provide concrete cost estimates because the department is looking at different options. One would involve hiring full-time staff, and another would increase shared services with neighboring departments, Lukas said.

The Milton Fire Department currently provides Advanced EMT services. At that level, technicians can administer IV fluids and medication for chest pains or drug overdoses, he said.

When the department needs to provide paramedic care, it calls the Janesville Fire Department. The partnership between Milton and Janesville works well, but hiring additional staff or developing a new shared system could improve Milton's operations, Lukas said.

Some fire and rescue squads contract with private companies such as Paratech to provide medical care. At this time, Milton is not considering a private service, he said.

But now is the time to explore options. Lukas is the interim fire chief through the end of 2017, and the department has a relationship with RW Management, a private consulting firm tasked with finding solutions to staff and budget shortages.

The department recently received a pilot grant from the International Association of Fire Chiefs, and the money could go toward hiring additional people. That would help change the staffing model to provide more overnight coverage, Lukas said.

The interim chief would like to have new EMS services in place by next year.

“What that's going to be though, we just don't know yet,” Lukas said.

Copyright 2016 The Janesville Gazette

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