Port hires paramedics to ease EMS staffing crisis

City that has struggled to staff ambulance service to pay for two of the positions with $200K county grant

By KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM

Ozaukee Press staff

Port Washington officials this week took two major steps to ease what officials have called a critical shortage of emergency medical personnel and ensure round-the-clock paramedic services in the city.

On Monday, the Police and Fire Commission authorized hiring three full-time firefighter/paramedics.

“I think this is a step in the right direction,” Commission Chairman Jim Biever said. “It’s great for the community. It’s been a priority of the Police and Fire Commission to staff paramedics adequately, and I think we’ve done that now.

“We won’t have to rely on other communities. We should be able to handle most of our own calls.”

Also on Tuesday, the Common Council approved an agreement with Ozaukee County that will provide $200,000 to fund two of the three positions over the next three years.

City Administrator Tony Brown noted that the city is expected to provide a plan to continue funding the positions once the county money runs out.

“The chief and I will work on that,” he said, adding that a change in health insurance providers will likely free enough money to cover the cost.

The third position will be funded through the city budget, Fire Chief Mark Mitchell said.

This is welcome news for the city, which has offered paramedic services since 2011 but in recent years has struggled to staff its ambulance with paramedics.

It’s a particularly welcome development, Mitchell said, because as of this week the department was relying entirely on part-time staffing and other departments to ensurer paramedic coverage.

“I beg, borrow and steal on certain days to get people (to cover shifts),” he said.

All three of the new full-time employees are current members of the department and each accepted the jobs on Tuesday, Mitchell said, adding they will begin work in January.

The three are Sam Lorge, Dylan Dodson and Cameron Karstaedt.

Mitchell said Lorge, who is an EMS lieutenant, has been with the department for about two years. A Marquette University student who is studying for a degree in a medical field, Lorge completed paramedic school just before he joined the department, Mitchell said, and is also a member of the dive team. He’s taken firefighter 1 classes and is now finishing firefighter 2 classes.

Dodson, a five-year Army veteran, joined the department about a year ago as a part-time EMT while working for private ambulance services, Mitchell said. Dodson quit working full-time to go to paramedic school and is also attending firefighter 1 classes.

Karstaedt joined the department a year ago as an EMT and firefighter, Mitchell said, noting he got his start working with the Kiel fire and ambulance services.

All three have been mentored by Joe DeBoer, who was recently promoted to deputy chief, Mitchell said.

“They’re all truly solid guys,” he said.

The firefighter/paramedics will be paid a starting salary of $54,500, and it increases annually to $75,000 in five years.

DeBoer, he added, is a physician’s assistant who has been with the department since 2004, starting as a firefighter and later becoming an EMT and paramedic.

“His forte is EMS, and 80% of our business is that,” Mitchell said, noting the department handles about 1,600 ambulance calls annually.

“We’re beyond that already this year,” he added.

 

 

 

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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