Ill. village gets own ambulance service, crew of paramedics


Georgina GustinSt. Louis Post-Dispatch | | Tuesday, June 26, 2007

GLEN CARBON, Ill. After years of planning, the growing village of Glen Carbon finally has its own ambulance service to handle emergencies.

This month, the Glen Carbon Fire Protection District, which consists primarily of the village with small chunks of surrounding municipalities, launched an ambulance service with 13 employees and two new vehicles.

"I think it's a long overdue event," said Glen Carbon Police Chief David Bradford. "It's a giant step and is going to improve service delivery in the village."

For years, the fire protection district relied on the Edwardsville, Maryville or Abbott Ambulance services. Though EMTs from the district could treat victims at a scene, they could not transfer them elsewhere, which meant more work for dispatchers and potential time lost for hospital-bound patients.

Before the new service launched June 4, the Edwardsville ambulance service handled the northern half of the village while Abbott handled the southern half. Maryville was used as a backup in recent years. This meant that when a fire broke out or accident occurred, a dispatcher first had to call the fire protection district, then figure out which service to call. Sometimes if one was busy, they would have to call another.

"It was a nightmare for us," Bradford said, adding, "There were times when a dispatcher was making three or four calls to get an ambulance."

"When you're dealing with life and death, seconds are significant," Bradford added, "and that really added significant time."

According to fire district President Carl Walton, the push to launch the ambulance service began about three years ago, when Edwardsville, pressed by its own growth, said it could handle only the northern half of the village of about 12,000. When the village went to Maryville and asked for its help, Maryville said it would need to be compensated.

The village went to voters and asked them to approve a tax increase to pay Maryville, but when Maryville was offered $30,000 to run the service, it declined. After the village was turned down by another ambulance service, Abbott agreed to handle the southern half of the village for that amount. The fire district paid Edwardsville $100,000 annually to handle the northern half.

"Edwardsville is a growing community, and they were getting bigger," Walton said. "And Abbott was going through some changes, so we said we need our own service."

The district now has two new ambulances, which cost roughly $320,000 to buy and equip, but will only use one, keeping the other as a backup. The district also has hired six full-time paramedics, paid about $35,000 each annually, and six part-time paramedics, paid $13.50 an hour, Walton said. An ambulance director also has been hired and will be paid about $50,000 annually, Walton said.

Two paramedics will be on-call 24 hours a day, every day.

"We worked hard on this," Walton said. "And we're happy to see it all come together."

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