The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Gogebic-Iron ambulance service talks continue

 

February 15, 2018



By RALPH ANSAMI

ransami@yourdailyglobe.com

Bessemer — Beacon Ambulance and Aspirus Ironwood Hospital officials are trying to come up with a long-term plan to retain ambulance service in Gogebic and Iron Counties.

Gogebic County Emergency Management Director Jim Loeper told the county board of supervisors Wednesday that Beacon Ambulance “is in jeopardy of closing for a bunch of different reasons.”

The chief reason, Loeper said, it that Beacon has lost many employees in the past six months and is facing a personnel shortage.

Beacon, under the ownership of the Lawrence Kutz family, of Hurley, has been operating in the two counties and beyond for 48 years, said Loeper, a former Beacon employee.

Loeper said it’s difficult now to conduct emergency medical technician classes to train new recruits, as the cost of putting on the classes is practically unaffordable. He said rural areas across Michigan are facing the same dilemma.

He also said regulations make it tough to teach an EMT class, with a requirement that a doctor must be on hand for the training.

Commissioners said there’s a burn-out factor with paramedics because it’s a grueling job.

“This is an issue that’s been brewing for years,” Loeper said, adding that he had predicted six or seven years ago it would come to a head around now. “They need to help us keep these courses going,” he said.

Wisconsin has a law requiring EMT response be provided by counties, but Loeper said Michigan’s law merely says the sheriff’s department must remove people from roadways and highways.

“If Beacon leaves, the area is in trouble,” Loeper said.

Loeper said he has been talking to law enforcement and governmental agencies and said short- and long-term needs must be addressed for the two counties, perhaps by a committee.

County board chairman George Peterson, of Watersmeet, said he believes the concerned parties are on the “right track” in addressing the issue from the east to west ends of Gogebic County.

“Keep us updated,” he told Loeper.

After the meeting, Loeper said it’s not an issue of Aspirus seeking to force out Beacon. He said lawmakers have been contacted about the issue.

On Tuesday, Hurley Mayor Joe Pinardi, who also serves as Iron County Board of Supervisors chairman, told the city council Beacon didn’t intend to pull out of the area and an online posting last week in response to rumors said Beacon wished to continue serving the area.

 
 

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