Funds would add coverage, wages, create training program
ST. CLAIR COUNTY — When the costs of goods rise, businesses typically choose to pass the increase on to the consumer but emergency medical service providers don’t have that option. Facing both an increase in demand for services and increased costs, local EMS leaders have decided to come to voters on August 2 and ask for a half-mill four-year levy.
“Ambulance services really have no ability to control the revenue they receive. We are told by payers how much they are going to pay us for what we provide,” said Tri-Hospital EMS Corporation President and CEO Ken Cummings.
Compounding the problem is that the demand for services is rising most among non-payable accounts, that is, those individuals who don’t get transported to the hospital but for whom ambulances still have to respond for.
“We’re at a point where we need to expand our services at the same time we’re generating less revenue so we either need to find money or reduce our abilities. We can cut back or ask the public to help fund this shortfall and asking the public for assistance is the route we have chosen first,” he said.
If the millage is approved, the tax dollars would be collected by the county and distributed to each local municipality who would then forward those funds on to the EMS provider they contract with. It’s estimated the millage would generate approximately $3.36 million in the first year its levied.
The county is serviced by three ambulance providers. Tri-Hospital EMS covers the majority of municipalities including Lynn, Mussey and Berlin townships and the village of Capac. One of their nine locations includes a garage in the village of Capac. The other two providers are Richmond-Lenox EMS and the City of Marysville.
“The biggest cost of ambulance services is the cost of readiness. We need to be ready at a moment’s notice to respond so we have a lot of costs deployed before we even turn a wheel,” Cummings said.
“We have to have the infrastructure in place and ready to go and millage dollars will ensure those resources are there. But if we don’t protect the infrastructure, it won’t be there down the road.”
Like many other industries, staffing EMS rigs is a challenge. Cummings said a large portion of the millage dollars will be directed toward wages so that Tri-Hospital EMS can be competitve in attracting new talent.
“Funds will also be used to strengthen our own education division,” he added.
Since 2020, when St. Clair County Community College ended their EMS training program, there has been no local option for anyone wanting to get the necessary training and certification.
Cummings notes that its common for millage dollars to fund private, not for profit enterprises, referencing Lapeer County’s own EMS millage.
“This problem is not a Tri-Hospital EMS problem it’s an EMS problem,” Cummings said.
“The county can throw Tri-Hospital out tomorrow and the funding problem will still exist.”