According to Chief John Swenson of the Lino Lakes Public Safety Department, the city’s ambulance provider will change in June. Currently, North Memorial Health provides the ambulances. Swenson said this is because Fairview Health doesn’t have ambulances even though it has been designated by the state to cover the area.
A representative of M Health Fairview told North Metro TV News HealthEast Medical Transportation (owned by Fairview) has been operating for many years in Dakota County and will be providing the new service in the Lino Lakes, Forest Lake, Hugo, and Wyoming areas. To meet the needs of this new coverage area, M Health Fairview will be adding staff and equipment, including ambulances.
Swenson said the state is divided into ambulance primary service areas, or PSAs. Lino Lakes’ PSA is currently owned by Fairview, which last year formed a partnership with University of Minnesota to form M Health Fairview.
“We’re okay with change,” said Chief Swenson. “We just need to know what the change is going to be, and we need to have a voice in this.”
Swenson said according to the rules governing the state’s Emergency Medical Service Regulatory Board, the merger could either be considered a change in ownership or a change in license. If it’s considered a change of ownership, the process would involve public input and that’s what the city wants. To that end, Lino Lakes City Council in December passed a resolution in favor of asking the state to further explore how it makes these decisions.
As it stands, Swenson and other city leaders are worried that a ticking clock on how long North ambulances are running in the city have ambulance workers leaving, thereby bringing in temporary EMS crews and drivers not familiar with the city and its surroundings. He said that’s already lead to increased response times–some of more than 30 minutes–and he’s worried that more, similar difficulties will only cause more harm to Lino Lakes residents.
“We are a partner,” said Swenson. “We need to have some level of control of how ambulance service is provided.”
The city council resolution also pushes for the public safety department to explore any and all options for ambulance service moving forward.
“This isn’t about Lino Lakes starting an ambulance service,” Swenson said. “This would likely be a discussion about other vendors that could provide service under a contract similar to what we have today to offer an ambulance service.”
Swenson and other city leaders have attended several EMSRB meetings to gauge where the state may lean on its decision.
“The old attitude was: ‘Well, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it,'” said Swenson. “My response was, simply: ‘Well, it may not be broken for you, but it’s not working for us.'”