The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Talks continue with Beacon, proposed costs coming down

 

April 19, 2018

Ralph Ansami/Daily Globe

AN ASPIRUS Hospital critical care transport Medevan participates in a mock accident last week at the Hurley K-12 school, along with an Aspirus medical helicopter. A key issue in Beacon Ambulance's request for higher payments from area municipalities is Aspirus providing medical transport services.

By RALPH ANSAMI

ransami@yourdailyglobe.com

Hurley - Negotiations are continuing in an effort to keep Beacon Ambulance in business.

The Hurley City Council on Tuesday discussed the status of the talks with Iron County Emergency Management Director Stacy Ofstad, who said Beacon is decreasing its proposed costs to area communities in seeking a new contract.

At a city council meeting last week, Hurley Mayor Joe Pinardi said Beacon was requesting an increase in its annual contract with Hurley from $5,231 to $46,710. He pointed out the ambulance company had not had an increase for several years.

The mayor and council members said they couldn't afford to pay such a hefty hike.

Ofstad said Tuesday the proposed rates under negotiation have come down and some area municipalities are considering borrowing to cover the unexpected costs. He said the citizens of the towns and cities would need to approve the issue in votes if they decided to borrow.

Ofstad said Beacon is seeking a one-year contract.

An "upfront" payment of $14,000 for Hurley was mentioned Tuesday and a $1.85 per capita rate was discussed, which would be in the neighborhood of a $37,000 cost to Hurley.

Hurley's contract begins March 1 so the increase would be retroactive to then.

Ofstad said there will be another meeting among municipalities in the county next week to discuss the ambulance issue. He noted Wisconsin municipalities are required to provide ambulance services.

Ofstad said Beacon has been losing money monthly. He cited a few reasons the Hurley-based ambulance company is having a tough time financially.

Aspirus Ironwood Hospital Medevans have taken some medical transports away from Beacon, Ofstad said, although he said that situation has been improving recently for Beacon.

Ofstad also said Beacon receives reimbursements of only 30 cents on the dollar from Medicare and Medicaid.

At a mock accident drill at the Hurley K-12 school last week, both Beacon and Aspirus vehicles were on the scene.

Last week, the city council discussed a possible countywide special levy for ambulance services, but on Tuesday, council members indicated that probably wouldn't work.

Mercer has its own ambulance service and that could complicate a countywide millage, they said. "We don't want to go down that road," council member Joanne Bruneau said.

Council members said the city has no interest in operating its own ambulance service.

Council members questioned whether a grant might help pay the yearly costs. Ofstad said since it's a private business, grant money isn't available.

He told the council that Beacon announced in January it would close at the end of February, but talks have since continued with John Kutz of Beacon.

Ofstad said after the initial announcement, he met with Gogebic County Emergency Services Coordinator Jim Loeper and hospital officials and they agreed they want Beacon to stay in business.

The quality of service and response time from Beacon hasn't been questioned by those involved in the negotiations.

Loeper previously told the Gogebic County Board of Commissioners that Beacon "is in jeopardy of closing for a bunch of different reasons."

He said Beacon is facing a personnel shortage, it's difficult and costly to conduct emergency medical technician classes to train new recruits, and he also cited the transport issue.

Regarding ambulance service, Loeper said Michigan's law merely says the sheriff's department must remove people from roadways and highways.

Loeper said last month it's not an issue of Aspirus seeking to force out Beacon.

Both Loeper and Ofstad said lawmakers have been contacted about the issue.

 
 

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