The city of Jordan will soon have a volunteer ambulance service stationed locally — on a trial basis for now.
The Jordan City Council approved a memorandum of understanding with Ridgeview Medical Center Monday night for an ambulance to be stationed in Jordan. The move is projected to lower response times and improve safety for area residents.
“I think we have a very workable plan to get this up and running,” City Administrator Tom Nikunen said.
Discussions about bringing a volunteer ambulance service to the city have been swirling for months. Currently, Jordan receives emergency medical service from Ridgeview Ambulance Service, whose nearest ambulances are housed in and dispatched from Belle Plaine. Darel Radde, director of ambulance services for Ridgeview, has said the average response time for an emergency ambulance call to Jordan was 10.5 minutes.
Under the new agreement, the average response time could drop to about seven minutes.
Jordan City Council members repeatedly clarified with city staff Monday night that the launch of the service was a test run. That is, once it’s up and running for six months, the city will evaluate its success before putting a permanent plan in place, including building an ambulance garage. The interim plan is to house the ambulance at the city’s fire hall.
“What does success mean? Well, we have thoughts on the amount of volunteers and hours of coverage,” city documents said. “That is our next discussion really with our committee and Ridgeview.”
The city did throw out ballpark figures, though. Success with the new endeavor could be quantified with 10-15 volunteers and more than 50% of the calls covered. The ALS ambulance, or advanced life support ambulance, stationed in Belle Plaine would still be requested for all calls, with the option to cancel it en route if the Jordan-based ambulance, which would likely function as a BLS ambulance, or basic life support ambulance, can arrive first and administer needed medical care.
The city will pay for start-up costs, including uniforms, minor equipment and training.
Nikunen previously said Jordan has budgeted $90,000 for startup costs and volunteer wages, with only $60,000 estimated to be used. The city budgeted $35,000 for building costs and partial construction.
Council member Robert Whipps raised a number of questions Monday, about whether the service would actually improve response times, staffing concerns and future costs. Whipps said he believed the costs associated with building the ambulance structure, including bringing in things like heat and air conditioning and wiring and internet could push it over budget.
“At some point, I want us to get a realistic look at a number (from) a neighboring community or somebody that’s built an ambulance station and figure out that amount that we’re going to need to spend to do this, because I don’t think we have that today,” he said.
Ridgeview will meet with any prospective firefighters and potential volunteers in September to answer questions about the service. It’s in the city’s best interest to obtain existing fire employees who are already trained EMTs to join the lineup for the volunteer ambulance, city documents said.
“That helps us hit the ground running a bit and any additional training would not be wasted as we assume they will continue to be fire fighter employees,” city documents said, adding that fire calls would trump ambulance and the fire department would continue to respond to an any calls they get paged for currently. The EMTs would function as Ridgeview employees, with the city subsidizing their wages.
Jordan averages about 400 ambulance calls per year and the goal is for the local ambulance to cover as many of those as possible, Nikunen said.
“This isn’t a huge investment on the front end,” Radde said Monday night. He said the six-month trial period will allow the city to see if there are enough interested volunteers for the work.
“If they’re only covering one day a week, it’s probably not worth that investment,” he said of the volunteer EMTs.
Nikunen said Monday night the service could get off the ground in spring 2020.