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Ambulance service could change

The days of having the Apple Valley-Lakeville-Farmington Ambulance service as an emergency service provider may be numbered.

By the end of the month, the ALF Ambulance board of directors will request proposals from other emergency service providers to take over the operations of the current ALF Ambulance service. If a new provider is chosen, the ALF Ambulance group will dissolve -- in a way -- at the end of the year.

Over the past couple weeks, the member cities, and now the townships, have been asked to approve requirements specified in a request for proposals that will go to outside emergency medical service providers to see if they would like to pick up service in the ALF area.

Those requirements include a few specifics, like that the potential EMS provider keep an ambulance at the locations where rigs are now located -- in Farmington, that is at Fire Station No. 2 on 195th Street and Pilot Knob Road. It also requires the potential provider to keep staff on duty during the same hours ALF paramedics are on duty now -- 24 hours daily in Apple Valley and Lakeville, and for 10 hours in Farmington.

If the change goes through, some ALF paramedics may be left without jobs. It is likely, said Farmington city administrator Peter Herlofsky, who serves as the ALF executive management committee chairperson, that any new service provider would have to hire additional staff to cover the three locations. The RFP guidelines urge potential providers to give consideration to existing ALF staff, but do not require that ALF paramedics be hired.

A couple of things led to the change, Herlofsky said. ALF Ambulance director Tom Kelly resigned in May. Before that, though, the executive committee had started to look at the service being provided and the growing populations in each of the member communities.

Right now, ALF paramedics work on 24-hour schedules. They put in 2,912 hours annually, as opposed to most full-time employees who put in 2,080. The result, though, is that by working 24 hour shifts, ALF paramedics are not getting the rest they need to provide quality health care.

"It's coming to the point where the amount of time spent working doesn't allow for a rest," Herlofsky explained. "In an emergency, wouldn't you rather have someone on the 11th hour or work as opposed to the 23rd hour?"

ALF Ambulance is the only EMS provider still working on a 24-hour schedule. Most others are on a 10- or 12-hour schedule. Though the executive committee has looked at changing the shifts, no plan has worked out for this area, he said.

The change also means member cities will no longer have to work through the operational aspects of running an ambulance service. If another provider is chosen, that provider will assume all operational duties and management. The member cities will oversee the contract management -- in essence, making sure the provider follows the terms of the contract.

RFPs are due by Aug. 5, with the cities being able to review proposals throughout the month. Interviews will follow in early September, and contract negotiations will follow. If a contract is approved in October, the new EMS provider would take over Jan. 1, 2009.