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Chief Jay VanLanduyt

April 6, 2011

As we look at the results of the recent referendum to establish a tax for Ambulance Service, we see that this was no slam-dunk.  This tells me that many residents were not convinced of the need for this additional tax.

The members of the Friends of the Hinckley Fire District spent about 3 hours on Sunday, April 3, going door-to-door to explain the referendum.  They told us of several questions that were posed regarding this initiative, and since they were only able to cover a portion of the village (let alone not touching the rural areas), I thought it would be a good idea to try to address some of those questions here.

Why are you doing this?  Currently, the ambulance is staffed by one full-time person (the Fire Chief) and one on-call Emergency Medical Technician Monday through Friday, 6am-6pm. The night shift (6pm - 6am) and weekends are staffed by one on-call paramedic and one on-call EMT. While on-call, these people cannot leave town for any reason-- they cannot shop, go to the doctor, or take care of any personal business that takes them out of town.  They cannot engage in any activity that cannot be immediately abandoned in the event of an emergency call.  Except for the full-time Fire Chief, no one is compensated in any way for being on-call.  We are finding that fewer and fewer people are willing to give up their free time in this way.  There are beginning to be holes in the coverage due to this lack of volunteers. This additional tax will allow us to pay people a stipend to be on-call. 

You keep talking about paramedics and EMTs. What is the difference and why does it matter? In the State of Illinois, there are two levels of training for emergency medical care providers in the field.  Emergency Medical Technicians attend approximately 410 hours of instruction and are able to deliver Basic Life Support (BLS).  This consists of splinting broken bones, administering oxygen, aspirin, and a respiratory drug called Albuterol; and performing CPR. Paramedics must start as EMTs, then attend an additional 950 hours of training and can deliver Advanced Life Support (ALS).  In addition to the skills that EMTs possess, paramedics are able to administer over 20 different types of drugs, treating ailments from chest pain, cardiac arrest, and cardiac problems, to diabetes, allergic reactions, drug overdoses and breathing problems.  They are able to administer life-saving electrotherapy to the heart to correct abnormal rhythms due to heart disease and heart attack.  They are able to secure a person's airway with endotracheal intubation.  In fact, in the event that a person suffers a cardiac arrest, our paramedics can administer the exact same drugs, therapy and treatments that a patient would receive in the first twenty minutes of arrival at an emergency department of a hospital.  And that care is delivered to your door.

What are the total costs of this proposal? What will the on-call people be paid?  The total levy amount requested is $140,022.  On-call EMTs will be paid $30 for a 12-hour shift; on-call paramedics will be paid $65 for a 12-hour shift.  We have estimated the annual cost for these wages to be around $59,000/year.  There will be increased costs for Worker's Compensation Insurance and Unemployment Insurance, since these premiums are based on our wages paid.  We will also see increases in utility costs, as some members will choose to spend their shift at the fire station.  We have estimated these ancillary costs at less than $16,000.  The remaining $65,000 will be placed in a fund to save for replacing our two aging ambulances. It will take about 3 years to save enough money to replace one ambulance.

What about the cost to provide sleeping quarters at the fire station? When the new station was built in 2005, sleeping quarters were provided for; beds have already been donated and there is no cost involved.

What about increased costs to feed the on-call personnel staying at the station? On-call personnel are responsible for their own food.  No tax money has ever been spent on food for the members of the fire department and this will not change.

Why are you training people to let them leave after they are certified? People who join our department must be trained to do the job we are asking them to do.  The costs of tuition for these classes has been, and will continue to be, paid for out of the funds we receive for billing for service. People taking the EMT class must agree to one year of service at a minimum of 5 shifts per month; people taking the paramedic class must agree to two years of service.  If the person leaves for any reason before these service requirements are met, they are required to reimburse the department for all costs.

Will you continue to bill for service? Yes, we will continue to bill for two reasons: 1) This tax is primarily to ensure the service is available. There will still need to be a charge for actually receiving the service. More on this in below; and 2) We will continue to bill out-of-district patients, and at a higher rate, as they have not contributed anything to ensure the service is available.  As for District residents who call for help, the billing rate is $200 less than the out-of-district rate.  Also, it has been, and will continue to be our policy that those residents who cannot pay this bill, or any portion thereof, will NOT be pursued for payment.

How long will this levy be in effect? Is there an expiration date? There is no expiration date for this levy. It is a permanent tax.

If you have any other questions, please drop me an email at chief@hinckleyfd.org and I will be happy to answer them.