By Gail Peckler-Dziki~Correspondent
Dan Gerber, president of the Silver Lake Rescue Squad, Inc. (SLRS) sat down with The Report to talk about operations a few weeks ago. He had answers to questions, like why was SLRS at an intermediate level rather than a paramedic level.
“About two percent of our calls require paramedic level treatment,” he said. “When the state licenses a service at that level, that’s an additional cost of $20,000.”
That money doesn’t go to the state but pays for the array of drugs and equipment required for any paramedic service. Its an all or nothing proposition. No department chooses what they need, they buy what is required. All drugs have a shelf life and when they reach the expiration date, they must be thrown out.
“We already end up throwing away drugs we are required to keep for the intermediate level,” explained Carolyn Dodge, an SLRS member since 1995. She and new member Raquel Conrad were on duty the day The Report visited.
SLRS considers Silver Lake home, so Silver Lake residents get a break on charges. “We may receive more in tax dollars,” Gerber said, “but we charge Silver Lake residents $375 for BLS services. Those who are outside the borders are charged $475.”
Insurance companies base their coverage on Medicare coverage for ambulance services. “Those costs are set for us,” Gerber said. “If we answer a call with a Medicaid patient, that’s what we get. If we have a Medicare patient who has no supplemental and that client lives on a fixed income, we work with them.
“Sometimes we only receive the Medicare payment.”
Gerber said they are still receiving payments from clients as far back as 2005.
Many factors, including weather, make the budget for emergency services very fluid. There is no way to accurately forecast how many calls the SLRS or any emergency service for that matter will receive. “Wilmot Mountain Ski Hills is part of Randall that we cover,” Gerber said. “If there is little snow, there will be very few calls. You don’t know what the weather will be, so its hard to know.
If the village accepts the SLRS proposal of dropping the annual payment from $27,000 per year to $7500 per year, changes will have to be made. All capital improvements would be put on hold and more pay cuts would be in the works.
There was a 7.5 percent decrease in wages across the board last year. Stipends for the two chiefs were cut and neither the board of directors nor the president of the board asked for any stipend for last year or the next.
Gerber said, “We will have to increase our fundraisers and most of all we will have to be extremely conservative. We believe that if we follow the above that we will be sustainable for the two-year period to help assist and grow the fire department.”
“The Ad Hoc committee as well as the village board stated numerous times,” he continued, “that the fire department needs more money so this is the reason we decided to go through with this offer.”
SLRS would still work with Salem on calls needing intercepts. Since SLRS already provides first response to Salem in areas surrounding
the Village of Silver Lake, the relationship between the two departments is very strong.
Gerber said that while $27,000 “is extremely reasonable for Intermediate technician EMT service in today’s market. We are responding to the village’s need and willing to work around those financial restraints to help everyone.”
He believes taking this cut will give the Silver Lake fire department and the SLRS time to work together for a more permanent solution at the end of two years.
The SLRS building, which was built by the SLRS, does sit on village property and that property is leased to the SLRS for $1 a year for 30 years. The annual payroll is about $125,000. This includes daytime staffing, weekend staffing and paid on call (POC).
SLRS pays all overhead costs except snowplowing, which the village provides. “We pay all fuel, maintenance to ambulances, medical
supplies, medications, insurance both vehicle, building and grounds, workers compensation and liability, payroll, office supplies, new ambulance purchases, cardiac monitors, heat and electric, building maintenance, grounds maintenance, gear, uniforms, and anything else that is related to Silver Lake Rescue Squad Inc.,” Gerber said.
Gerber is a third generation firefighter and EMT whose grandfather died in the line of duty as a Silver Lake Volunteer firefighter. Gerber has served as a firefighter and emergency services provider for 17 years, so he has one foot in each branch.
He said, “Fire and EMS is truly a unique, team profession. People and property come first and I am extremely happy to have been able a to serve in all the capacities.”
His full-time job is to oversee the operations of Medix Ambulance Service in Walworth, Racine and Kenosha counties of a fleet of seven ambulances and 55 employees. “We operate at the BLS (basic life support) and ALS (advanced life support) levels in all three counties and specialize in inter-facility transports. Medix also provides ALS paramedic services to several communities in Walworth and Racine counties as well as ALS intercepts to many providers in Walworth, Racine and Kenosha counties.”
When SLRS receives a call that requires paramedic care, a call is made to either Medix or Salem Rescue.
Gerber has close ties to Salem Fire and Rescue, since he was Battalion Chief Town of Salem Fire/ Rescue in 2004 and served at the EMT-Basic level.
Gerber also served on the Salem fire and EMS committee 1997 to 2004, the standardization committee 2000 from 2004 and the fire chief hiring committee in 1999; the time of the consolidation of the three Salem volunteer fire departments and the Salem emergency service.