RC may transfer ambulance license to Lakes Region EMS

The Rush City Council on Nov. 28 appeared receptive to the idea of transferring the city-owned ambulance license to Lakes Region EMS, which is looking for security and clarification for improvements going forward.

They appear to operate “a well-run, fiscally responsible operation,” businessman and resident Mike Carroll, who sits on the Lakes Region Board of Directors, informed the council. “I think it’s a win-win for us, as a Rush City (resident).”

Lakes Region EMS, with bases in Rush City, North Branch and Chisago City, is an Advanced Life Support ambulance service that serves around 50,000 residents and visitors across an area of about 450 square miles that includes parts of Chisago, Isanti and Pine counties. It answered more than 3,100 emergency calls and treated 2,800 patients just last year, according to its website.

Since around 1997, by informal agreement with the city, Lakes Region has provided ALS ambulance services in the Rush City service area, which includes Harris and Rock Creek. While the city continues to own the ambulance license to provide the services, Lakes Region is listed as solely the provider, often taking on much of the responsibility for the service along with the Rush City base on property it leases from the city.

Improvements are now required at the base, which, in part, prompted Lakes Region to put together an ambulance license transfer agreement for the city to consider. Lakes Region’s concern is they’re not willing to improve the base building until they have certainty from the city through the license, said Carroll.

“They are willing to make an investment but want security in knowing they have a base to improve,” council member Michael Louzek noted. “But we sure don’t want our own ambulance service; it sounds effective by expensive. Advanced Life Support is the best thing going.”

On the license transfer, Carroll said the city could be putting itself at risk if the council chose to deny it. “Since Lakes doesn’t own the license, they could walk away from here tomorrow,” he cautioned. “If they owned the license, they wouldn’t be able to leave without (assuring) coverage.”

Yet Lakes Region wants to stay here, continued Carroll, noting there’s enough down time for Lakes to do medical assessments and other types of care in a city without a hospital.

City attorney Peter Grundhoefer wondered about the kind of commitment, capital or other, that Lakes Region is willing to make for the area if granted ownership of the license. Their commitment should be noted in the license, he said.

Transferring the license from Rush City to Lakes Region EMS will ensure the continuation of a more efficient, prompt and economical ambulance service than the city of Rush City can provide on its own behalf, as well as provide reassurance that Lakes Region will continue to provide the services to Rush City on more than just an informal agreement, according to Lakes Region’s proposed agreement.

In addition, the proposal continued, the transfer and further clarification on the use of the base give Lakes Region EMS confidence to make improvements to the base, while continuing to provide services and commit to continuing maintenance of an ambulance base within the Rush City ambulance primary service area.

“They want to expand and want the security in having the license to protect that investment,” Louzek reiterated.

Added Carroll, Rush City is the only one in Lakes’ region that still holds a license. And “it’s not a clear defined base ownership at this time. We need to find a place to house (Lakes Region) and one that’s working.”

Discussion concluded without a vote, but the council will revisit the issue with more information and feedback from Lakes Region EMS at an upcoming meeting.

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