Ambulance decision should come soonApple Valley-Lakeville-Farmington Ambulance providers are still scratching their heads and trying to figure out what lies in their futures as member-city officials consider outsourcing their jobs.
By: Michelle Leonard, The Farmington Independent
Apple Valley-Lakeville-Farmington Ambulance providers are still scratching their heads and trying to figure out what lies in their futures as member-city officials consider outsourcing their jobs.
ALF paramedics learned of the proposal to outsource the area’s emergency medical services to an independent agency in June. The plan came as a surprise to the paramedics, especially since their union officials had only had two meetings with the ALF Ambulance executive management committee before the EMC recommended that the service be put out for bids.
Since that time, the area’s paramedics — several of whom have been serving Farmington and its neighbors since a joint powers agreement was signed in 1986 — have been left uncertain about their futures.
Last summer, the three member cities agreed to put out a request for proposals to see if any outside provider would be interested in taking over the area. The argument used, in a memo to the Farmington City Council from city administrator Peter Herlofsky, was that the current system of 24 hour shifts was depriving paramedics of sleep and affecting their ability to provide quality health care.
The ALF board received five RFPs and narrowed the field to two finalists — North Memorial and Allina. Last week, Herlofsky said final background checks were being done on both services. Tours of each provider’s sites are scheduled this Friday and Oct. 16. A decision is expected later this month.
That news came as yet another surprise, said ALF paramedic and union representative Karen Adams, because union members had been led to believe there was still a possibility the ALF Ambulance service would continue.
In August and September, union representatives met with Farmington human resources director Brenda Wendlandt to hammer out some contract issues and come up with an additional proposal. The paramedic’s proposal gave up 900 hours of overtime, Adams said. It restructured pay, time off and benefits. They agreed to change from the current 24 hour shift schedule. It was a proposal ALF paramedics thought the EMC would approve.
“We had some hard core contract negotiations,” Adams said. “We left there feeling like they would give us some serious consideration.”
But when they heard that the RFPs had been narrowed to two finalists, “the statements made it sound like we’re not even in the running,” she said.
Over the summer, ALF paramedics have been circulating petitions, walking parades and trying to see if they have the support of the residents they serve.
Adams argues residents would have opinions if cities decided to outsource police or fire services, and they may well have opinions about their EMS care. However, up until Tuesday, residents of Farmington, Apple Valley and Lakeville have not been included in the decision making process, she said.
With 800 names on petitions, the paramedics planned to attend a meeting of the EMC on Tuesday afternoon, to see if the petitions would make a difference.
The EMC meeting was scheduled to review the proposals and open them to the public, but notice of the meeting came to the Independent on Monday, through the AFSCME Minnesota Council 5, ALF Ambulance’s union.
ALF paramedic Jim Levi has been trying to gain some support from the city council members of the three communities by sending them informational packets and calling or meeting with each one.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” Adams said. “No one is more intimately involved in the lives of these residents than we are.... The community should be able to weigh in on that, especially when it affects public safety.”
The EMC is made up of city administrators from all three communities, as well as an HR representative (Wendlandt), Lakeville’s finance director and Apple Valley’s police chief. One member from each city council serves as representatives to the committee, as well. Council member Steve Wilson is Farmington’s representative.
A decision is expected later this month.