Ill. village cuts ambulance service

A village trustee said the decision to completely defund the ambulance service was "simply economics"


Marco Cartolano
Jacksonville Journal-Courier, Ill.

SOUTH JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — The Jacksonville area will be down an ambulance at the start of August and some worry it will delay ambulance response times.

The South Jacksonville Village Board of Trustees voted Thursday to defund the village’s ambulance service, voting 4-to-1 against actions items that would have fully or partially funded the ambulance.

The South Jacksonville Village Board of Trustees have voted to completely defund the village's ambulance service. The ambulance service will cease operations on Aug. 1, 2020. (Photo/South Jacksonville Fire Department Facebook)
The South Jacksonville Village Board of Trustees have voted to completely defund the village's ambulance service. The ambulance service will cease operations on Aug. 1, 2020. (Photo/South Jacksonville Fire Department Facebook)

The ambulance service will continue through July and operations will cease on Aug. 1

The decision to stop funding the service was, “simply economics,” village Trustee Dick Samples said.

South Jacksonville Fire Chief Rich Evans Jr. said defunding the service will be a loss for South Jacksonville and for nearby communities to which the South Jacksonville ambulance service provides backup.

“There will be times where someone needing an ambulance will not get one right away,” Evans said.

The ambulance service was developed in 2008 as a way to add a fourth ambulance for the Jacksonville area — along with LifeStar Ambulance Service’s three ambulances, Evans said. While South Jacksonville Fire Department will continue to respond to medical calls, it could take between 20 and 30 minutes for a LifeStar ambulance or an ambulance from another nearby community to arrive during busy periods, Evans said.

“We can’t really predict calls,” Evans said. “Sometimes it’s quiet and then it is bam, bam bam all at once.”

The ambulance service was never designed as a money-maker, Evans said, adding that there were signs the service was improving at making a profit. Service rates had been raised and a collection agency was hired to collect ambulance service fees.

Tom Jordan, the sole trustee to vote against defunding the ambulance service, said he felt the need as chair of the village’s Public Protection Committee to advocate for emergency services.

Village residents have told Jordan they believe the ambulance service is accessible and has been helpful in critical situations, he said.

“People are going to suffer out there,” Jordan said. “It could be a life-or-death situation in some instances.”

While his fellow trustees were concerned that the service was not generating revenue, Jordan said, he considers the ambulance a vital service for the village.

Evans said he is continuing to talk to trustees to try to come to an arrangement over the ambulance service.

Jordan would like to see an arrangement made yet this month to keep the ambulance service, he said, noting that trustees have been hearing negative feedback about the decision from residents.

Village President Harry Jennings and other members of the South Jacksonville Board of Trustees did not return calls for comment.

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©2020 the Jacksonville Journal-Courier (Jacksonville, Ill.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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