Ambulance Service Upgrade

Answers to Questions


Why must EMS change?

The City of Platteville and townships are required by State law to provide EMS services to citizens. The increasing volume of calls the Platteville EMS receives (expected to exceed 1,300 annually) is resulting in increasing stress for staff, increasing challenges in appropriately staffing the service, and increasing costs to the City and townships.  Additionally, the cost of equipment is increasing, and the aging ambulance garage is now in need of replacement and upgrades.

The City of Platteville and area Townships (Platteville EMS District), therefore, began discussions with Southwest Health –our local not-for-profit health care system and the area’s leading provider of high quality health care services –to determine how the responsibility for ambulance service operations could be cost-effectively transferred to Southwest Health.


What is proposed?

The joint goal was to benefit the citizens of the District (City of Platteville, Town of Platteville, Town of Elk Grove, Town of Belmont, Town of Smelser, Town of Ellenboro, Town of Harrison and Town of Lima), to enhance the level of service provided, and to do so at a fixed cost for a predetermined number of years. The proposed agreement transfers responsibility for area EMS services to Southwest Health, including a) the construction and ongoing maintenance of a new ambulance facility and b) ambulance service operations, staffing, and training. Additionally, Southwest Health is also proposing an important upgrade to the abilities of local ambulance personnel from EMTs to paramedics to further enhance service to area citizens.


What are the essential facts about this upgrade?

  • Southwest Health is our local, not-for-profit health care system with an entirely volunteer board of directors dedicated to the health of area communities. Southwest Health is the area’s second largest employer with more than 450 total employees.
  • Southwest Health and area ambulance crews have long enjoyed close working relationships that benefit the people of southwest Wisconsin. Southwest Health shares the vital fundamental goals of EMS personnel, including providing the most responsive, cost-effective, and highest quality services possible.
  • The City of Platteville and other local governments and townships are by State law responsible for providing citizens ambulance services.


Why now?

The volume of calls Platteville EMS is answering has been rising. In the near future, the City of Platteville and townships would be forced to research and change the EMS staffing model and add more expense to the district budget in order to maintain quality services.

Most staff for daytime hours are currently UW Platteville students. When full-time or part-time staff are added for the increased volumes, costs will rise for the District and its taxpayers.

In addition, the current ambulance garage is now 29 years old and far overdue for replacement. A new structure would be expensive yet still severely lacking in square footage and amenities for its purpose.


What are the specifics?

Southwest Health would construct and maintain a new $1.5 million facility.

Southwest Health would provide for all operations of EMS services on behalf of the City and townships.

Southwest Health would create many new jobs and upgrade EMS staff with paramedic level personnel. There would be full-time, part-time, and on-call opportunities for all levels of EMS staff. The upgrade would increase the training and abilities of EMS personnel overall, providing citizens improved service in life-threatening situations.


Will patients always be taken to Southwest Health?

No. The simple reality is that now and in the future, patients are and will be, as a matter of general policy, taken to the nearest facility. There are times when a patient specifically requests to be taken to a facility that is not the closest. These requests are honored whenever possible, taking into consideration complicating factors, such as, the patient’s medical condition. This policy also will not change.

Regarding insurance coverage, EMS services do not ask about coverage, and it does not factor into transport decisions in life-threatening emergencies. However, insurance coverage is normally not an issue in emergency situations as carriers most often cover emergency services independent of what facility a patient receives service.

Once patients are stabilized (now and under the proposed new system) they are sometimes transferred to another facility for further care. These decisions are made jointly by the patient and their doctors.


What are the benefits of the upgrade for area citizens?

The City of Platteville and townships cannot create a cost-effective Emergency Medical Services model that would provide necessary upgrades to services and personnel. Only through a health system like Southwest Health can Platteville residents gain access to fully trained paramedics and staff an EMS service 24/7 every day of the year.

The new system provides a high-quality, cost effective service at a predictable fixed-cost to taxpayers for constructing and maintaining new facilities and equipment and for operating ambulance services. And, it provides ongoing upgraded EMS services. Together, these advances are a big win for area residents.


What happens to current Platteville Area EMS staff?

Platteville EMS, as operated by the City, has 26 staff members as of the end of May, 2015. This includes one full-time administrator and one part-time assistant administrator, while the remaining 24 are paid on call.

Current staff members would be encouraged to apply for the new positions. As the service transitions to a paramedic level, all staff would be eligible to apply for full-time and part-time positions dependent on their certifications. The new full-time positions would be a combination of paramedic, AEMT and EMT level personnel.

“This is a strong direction to take Platteville EMS,” says Platteville EMS Administrator Brian Allen. “The upgrades will definitely benefit everyone in our region as there are many calls in which having paramedics onsite would be advantageous and potentially life-saving for patients.”


What about other area EMS services?

Area ambulance services are encouraged by the proposal and the upgraded services. In fact, they, too, would have access to the new Southwest Health paramedic team as “paramedic intercepts” who would, on life-threatening emergency calls in other districts, be able to provide paramedic level care in the back of another service’s ambulance.


Facts on upgrading to paramedics:

  • Both Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and paramedics respond to medical emergency incidents. Local EMS personnel are also called upon to provide care during transfers of patients from one medical facility to another.
  • The biggest difference between EMTs and paramedics is the extent of training and the scope of practice (or, what they are able to do).
  • EMTs usually receive from 180 hours of training. Paramedic status requires 1,200 to 1,800 hours, and programs are often two-year degrees.
  • Most of the Platteville EMS staff members operate at an Advanced EMT (AEMT) level that requires an additional 170 hours of training beyond the basic EMT training.
  • Platteville EMS currently has 3 paramedics among their 26 team members.
  • EMTs can give shots in the state of Wisconsin. AEMTs can provide IVs.
  • Paramedics provide additional advanced life support, including cardiac medications, pain management, and advanced airway management. As a result, paramedics bring more advanced care to patients at the scene and in the ambulance during transport.