Cost can’t help but be part of city’s study on fire-based EMS

A conversation all agree is a high priority for our community entered a key transition stage this week in terms of emergency medical services.
What has been an issue dominating the attention and focus of the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners now shifts to Aurora City Hall, where a new study is about to begin on the merits of transitioning to a fire-based EMS service.
Much has been said and written about the detailed focus group study, which concluded that while the advanced life support service currently provided is outstanding, Hamilton County pays more for that service than many other Nebraska communities of similar size. It’s a prudent decision to ask if there are ways to reduce cost while maintaining a high level of emergency care, which is what county commissioners were attempting to do.
The Aurora City Council now begins a new study focused entirely on the concept of creating a fire-based EMS service. Other communities have taken that approach and should be able to provide valuable insight if not a blueprint model in terms of structure, staffing and cost.
It’s worthy to note that Mayor Dave Long puts stock in the previous focus group study, which outlined a number of alternative solutions, including a fire-based system. “This study was a great idea by Hamilton County,” Long said. (See front page story for more details from that interview) “That study needed to be done because the ambulance is hemorrhaging on us financially. I really feel we’ll look back at some of that study, but our focus is fire-based and that’s all we want to study.”
In other words, cost will be a key part of the city’s evaluation, and should be.
There are many, many questions to be asked and answered on a fire-based EMS approach and we have high hopes that this conversation will lead to a community-based solution involving the city, county and Aurora hospital. It makes sense for those three entities to be at the table working together on a plan that works for all, since this is a countywide concern. City leaders emphasized that the goal is to continue to provide ALS care for the entire county, much like the existing service.
We are encouraged by city leaders’ commitment to keep this issue on the agenda, providing updates and information as often as possible. It will take some time, obviously, to reach any final conclusions, but it is critical that the process be as open and transparent as possible.
Everyone involved, including emergency service providers, taxpayers and in essence anyone in Hamilton County who may one day have to dial 911, wants and needs to know that a positive, sustainable, community-based, cost-effective solution is in the works.
Kurt Johnson

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