45 / 36
      48 / 34
      47 / 30

      Committee wants ambulance increase

      A commission set up to make recommendations on a new county-wide ambulance plan took its first steps Thursday toward implementing a new system.

      Capital Region has been losing thousands on their private ambulance service. They had opened, originally, to be out of the business by the end of the year - but that's not even close to happening.

      "The hospital has clearly said they will stay in the ambulance service until a new solution is found," said Capital Region paramedic Mike Shirts.

      So, the city and the county battled over what to do next. And with voters approving a half-cent sales tax to pay for a new county-run ambulance plan, the county commission put together a 20 member committee to make recommendations.

      And Thursday they made their first one, voting unanimously to expand and enhance the level of service in Cole County.

      "We got one of our tasks accomplished," said the ambulance advisory committee's chairman Dan Klindt. "Which was try to get the number of ambulances that we'd like to have in the county in a perfect world."

      Currently, Capital Region operates eight ambulances:

      • Two are stationed in the county.
      • Four inside Jefferson City.
      • Two are held in reserve.

      The advisory committee wants to increase that number to 13, proposing:

      • Six ambulances inside Jefferson City limits (an increase of two).
      • Four at locations around the county (an increase of two).
      • Keep three in reserve (an increase of one).

      Shirts says the recommendation is the most fair and would improve response times.

      "Of course when you increase ambulanecs and you increase staffing," he said. "You're enhancing the service that we provide currently."

      But you're also increasing the expense, since a typical ambulance costs around $400,000 a year just to maintain. Even so, the panel says shortened response times to anyone who calls - no matter if they're in the city, or the county - should trump everything.

      Ultimately, though, the recommendations will go to the county commission - and that could take some time. The committee's report isn't due until mid-March and a final plan might not be ready until sometime this summer.

      Capital Region typically gets about 10,000 ambulance calls a year. The panel will discuss where to house the new ambulances at their next meeting on Jan. 8.