Trending Topics

Wis. fire, EMS departments create mutual aid, ALS intercept agreement to prepare for hospital closings

First responders prepare for closing of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chippewa Falls and HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire.


A Chippewa Falls Fire and Emergency Services ambulance.

Chippewa Falls Fire and Emergency Services/Facebook

By Audrey Korte
The Chippewa Herald

CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. — The Chippewa Falls Fire and Emergency Services Department will be entering agreements with departments in Menomonie and Thorp as emergency services in the Chippewa Valley brace for the closures of HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chippewa Falls and HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire.

[PREVIOUSLY: Wis. first responders reeling after sudden news of hospital closings]

The city council’s transportation, construction, public safety and traffic meeting unanimously voted Monday morning to sign an agreement with the Menomonie Fire Department for ambulance mutual aid and to create an advanced life support joint intercept agreement between Chippewa Falls and the Thorp Area Ambulance District.

The agreements will go into effect on March 1.

Jason Thom, Chippewa Falls fire and EMS chief, said agreements with area townships aren’t new or unusual, but the department wants to be prepared for anything.

“We have mutual aid agreements with all of the surrounding communities. We’ve been meeting as a group as chiefs and EMS service directors and discussing everything and anything. We realized that we didn’t have a mutual aid agreement with Menomonie or agreements with Thorp,” Thom said. “We just thought, you know, it’s probably not a bad idea to have it in place in the event we ever needed it — especially with St. Joe’s closing.”

The agreement with the Menomonie Fire Department for mutual aid during periods of ambulance system overload specifies that either city may refuse such assistance if unable to help because of emergencies occurring within their respective jurisdictions. They may also refuse to provide assistance because of other circumstances beyond their control that prevent a timely response.

Mutual aid shall be provided only when requested in the following circumstances:

* Accidents or emergencies involving multiple victims that one service cannot adequately and in a timely manner handle with available resources.

* Assistance involved in an emergency or transfer run.

* Infrequent, unanticipated incapacitation of personnel.

* Mechanical difficulties temporarily impacting an ambulance or ambulances.

Each ambulance service is solely responsible for billing the patient.

Thom said the agreement with Thorp is for advanced life support intercept services. Thorp has a volunteer fire department so the aid happens when Chippewa Falls first responders assist Thorp residents, Thom said.

“We’re basically jumping on board with their patient in an intercept,” Thom said. “In the past couple of months, we provided an intercept service three times with them. They requested us to come out, so we responded. And I realize we didn’t have an intercept agreement with Thorp. So this is identical to the joint response agreements that we have with Bloomer.”

In an intercept situation, one medic typically gets out of the Chippewa Falls ambulance and assists the ambulance that called for aid.

“If we don’t need both of our medics, one medic will go with them and transport the patient and the other medic will drive our ambulance back to the city. So we don’t necessarily transfer patients, but what we do is just assist,” Thom said.

Thom said Thorp has transported most of its patients to HSHS St. Joseph’s in the past and patients are now going to require longer transport times and potentially additional care with the closure of HSHS hospitals. So Thom wanted to make sure there was an official agreement in place that spells out the specifics for billing patients in a mutual aid situation.

Mayor Greg Hoffman said Monday he is concerned about the intercept agreements with Thorp and other townships because he’s afraid that Chippewa Falls “will end up eating the cost.”

“Now I’m all for helping neighbors, but Chippewa Falls has its own needs. And, once again, we have to be responsible,” Hoffman said. “The world has changed since we started these joint agreements with surrounding towns, and we will want to revisit this to make sure we aren’t paying for everyone else’s needs once HSHS closes and we’re on longer runs.”

Thom said many of the agreements would be up for review in December. He also said the department will receive 50% of reimbursements from Medicare, Medicaid, the Veteran’s Administration and other institutions when intercepting with Thorp . Responses that involve on-scene care only, versus on-scene care and transportation, are billed separately by each department.

“I think that this kind of agreement is good for both sides,” Thom said Monday.

(c)2024 The Chippewa Herald, Chippewa Falls, Wisc.
Visit The Chippewa Herald, Chippewa Falls, Wisc. at
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.