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Need for ninth ambulance ‘urgent,’ Madison Fire Department says

MADISON (WKOW) — The Madison Fire Department characterized the city’s need for another ambulance as “urgent” Monday.

“We’ve asked for the last several budget cycles for an additional ambulance,” Chief Steve Davis told 27 News Monday evening.

In a post on the fire chief’s blog, the Madison Fire Department lays out why city alders should approve the purchase of a ninth ambulance. The new vehicle’s home would be Fire Station 14 on Madison’s far southeast side near Femrite Drive.

Ambulances can reach most addresses in the city in under nine minutes the vast majority of the time. However, around Fire Station 14, the chance of an ambulance arriving that quickly is almost 50/50. “When you’re confronting a health crisis like a traumatic injury, stroke or heart attack, this statistic is simply unacceptable,” the post says.

A new ambulance, according to a budget amendment, would require the city to borrow $387,000 over the next two years. Estimates state the ambulance will cost $33,250 in 2020 and then $66,500 annually thereafter. The amendment goes before the common council Tuesday evening.

Other amendments introduced could allow the city to defer, and start paying later in 2020.

“My thing as fire chief is, anything we can get our foot in the door on, we’ll take it,” said Davis. “Then we’ll continue to discuss it in out years.”

One paramedic does staff Station 14 daily, but without an ambulance, they cannot take anyone to the hospital, the post says. They do everything at the scene, except transport the patient.

“The critical piece in our system are those paramedics and that ambulance,” said Davis. “They bring the emergency room to the living room.”

Currently, EMS crews travel into station 14’s area from other firehouses. “When they do, these ambulances are no longer available to respond to emergencies in their own territories, causing a domino effect of dependence on other ambulances to cover the rest of the city,” the post says.

Station 5 primarily serves the southeast, but when that ambulance is gone, response times “increase by a lot,” a fire department spokesperson tells 27 News.

“When Miss Madison picks up the phone and calls 911 she has the expectation that we arrive on scene in 5 minutes or less,” said Davis. “If we don’t have ambulances available to do that, we’ve sold her out, if you will, as a taxpayer.”

He said that taxpayers expect the service that they’ve paid into “all these years.”

Seven times between Sept. 15 and Oct. 30, the city ran out of available ambulances, according to the post. Meaning ambulances from other cities would need to drive into Madison for any new urgent calls.

Monona, Sun Prairie and Middleton are the most common communities turned to for help.

Nearby McFarland could also assist in the city’s southeast. However, ambulances from that community lack all of the capabilities of its neighbors. Its EMTs are still able to provide potentially life-saving care, but cannot administer pain management and other services.

“We can never predict when an emergency will happen to us, but everybody deserves a fast response and the appropriate level of emergency medical care when that moment comes,” the post concluded.

Davis said he thinks the Common Council is supportive of the ninth ambulance, but there are always competing priorities in a tight budget.

“My issue though is that doesn’t help Miss Madison when she has chest pains, those competing priorities,” said the chief. “I think the priorities should be on Miss Madison and that chest pain call.”

JT Cestkowski

Social Media Content Producer/Desk Editor

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