Lanesboro's city council held a special meeting on Monday morning to respond to the "Ambulance Corrective Order" received from the Minnesota Emergency Medical Services Regulatory Board (EMSRB). As indicated at the last regular council meeting, the orders were anticipated due to a missed call on Dec. 14.

According to the cover letter, ambulance services must have "Continual service. An ambulance service shall offer service 24 hours per day every day of the year..."

However, on the date in question, when an ambulance was requested, the required number of EMTs did not respond and it was necessary to invoke the mutual aid contract and call on Preston's service to take the call.

The letter also pointed out the minimum number of personnel: "An ambulance service shall maintain: at least two ambulance service personnel on a written on-call schedule."

Non-compliance of these two requirements has resulted in the Lanesboro service being required to verify compliance by providing weekly schedules to the state every week. Immediate action is required.

Due to the urgency, City Administrator Bobbie Vickerman provided quotes from two companies providing EMS scheduling systems. The first was from EMS Manager, a product currently used by Preston's ambulance service.

With assistance from Preston, Ambulance Director Dave Haugen and Vickerman had been able to access the program and get a firsthand look at what that system provides. It handles the online scheduling, email and text messaging, an employee database, a library, message board and forum, an events calendar, detailed reports, free support and setup, free upgrades and data back-ups, and 24/7 unlimited access via both computer and mobile phone. Subscribers can add extras including a payroll integration program and a time clock system.

One of the many complicated issues that must be addressed is the need to pay an hourly stipend to EMTs when they are on call. Tracking the hours is time-consuming without a system that does both. In addition, Haugen pointed out the current system of paying EMTs once a year will likely need to be changed to monthly or quarterly. The EMS Manager system will track those hours more efficiently than an individual could do so manually.

The second quote was from WhenToWork, which provides some but not all of the same features. Haugen's conclusion was that the EMS Manager system was more detail-oriented, more user-friendly and more complete, with better user support.

After considering both of the quotes, the council approved establishing a contract with EMS Manager at a basic cost of $695 annually.

Council member Joe O'Connor requested this be a follow-up agenda item for discussion at the February meeting as to how it is working, along with any resulting recommendations to "create a stronger and more reliable" EMS system for Lanesboro.

Vickerman indicated that since the non-compliance must be corrected immediately, the city will scan the current schedule that Haugen has created and send it in to the state. Once the new system is in operation, it will be emailed to the state on a regular weekly basis, as required.

Haugen, who was attending the meeting with EMT volunteer Lee Peterson, said that the monitoring of the EMS performance in regard to this compliance will be by the state's receiving the weekly schedules on the required regular basis, and by random visits to check the calendar and any other documentation.

O'Connor asked whether reducing the EMTs to a First Responder status was being considered. Haugen said that of the five new applications for EMT training, some were interested only in becoming First Responders. The difference in training time is a factor: about 40 hours versus the 160 hours for EMTs. First Responders go to the scene and stabilize the patient, then wait for the EMTs. First Responders cannot transport, increasing the time it takes to get the patient to the hospital.

Vickerman asked if the council would object if she took the EMT training and became a member of the ambulance crew. The response was very positive, because she would be available for daytime calls, which many of the current EMTs are not.

Because the on-call EMTs must be paid a stipend, Haugen was asked for his recommendation of an amount. He thought it should be what he understands some other services are paying, a rate of $1 per hour. With minimum staffing of two EMTs on call 24/7, the cost to the service would be a minimum of $48 per day.

The council voted to table the discussion and decision about the amount of hourly pay until its February meeting. This would enable it to find out what other similar-sized services are doing.

In addition, because the ambulance department will meet on the last Monday of January, the council will be able to hear what members of the ambulance crew are thinking, both about the dollar amount and how the system is working after the required changes.