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Antioch officials eye combining rescue, fire operations

Antioch Rescue  Squad vehicles parked outside their statiHolbek Drive Antioch. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

Antioch Rescue Squad vehicles parked outside their station on Holbek Drive in Antioch. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 24, 2013 4:46PM

Antioch officials have renewed a contract for another 90 days with the Antioch Rescue Squad in order to continue to monitor the ambulance provider to confirm the organization is following recommendations issued by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

ARS officials are working to resolve their internal problems discovered by a state investigation into accusations of unprofessional conduct, breaches of confidentiality, improper use of medications and IV fluids, patient mistreatment and paramedics working while under the influence of alcohol that were partly blamed on a lack of leadership in the non-profit organization.

“I don’t want to go for any period of time without a contract,” said village Trustee Ted Poulos, of the first 90-day contract that expired Nov. 20. “If there is a break in the contract we won’t have any oversight of their operations.”

ARS and village officials are waiting for a response from IDPH to an ARS plan of correction submitted to the state earlier this month. “IDPH told me they will respond shortly,” said Village Attorney Robert Long. “I expect that means about mid-December.”

Village Administrator James Keim authored a 14-page document titled “Village of Antioch EMS Delivery Report,” in which he analyzed ARS operations and procedures gathered in ride-alongs on rescue calls, meetings and interviews with ARS officials and volunteers, review of ARS documents and weekly conference calls with IDPH. A survey of neighboring rescue operations is in the report, as are his recommendations for providing future services for residents.

“A lot is changing right now and the organization is evolving. I talked to a lot of people associated with ARS and I have a respect and admiration for what they do,” said Keim. The bottom line of his report is a recommendation to combine rescue and fire services.

“If we did that we would meet the level of paramedic services of our neighboring six communities,” including Fox Lake, Grayslake, Lake Villa, Newport, Round Lake and Salem, Wis.

Keim’s research shows that ARS has 21 paramedics and 14 EMTs on its roster. The fire department has 32 paramedics and 12 EMTS. If the departments were combined it would mean 53 paramedics and 26 EMTs available to serve Antioch-area residents, above the average of 40 paramedics and 21 EMTs of the six surveyed EMS departments that operate under the umbrella of their fire departments.

The First Fire Protection District, which serves the township, also renewed a 90-day contract with ARS. During the next 90 days officials from the fire protection district and village will discuss the coordination of rescue services and the option of combining rescue and fire services.

“There are several ways to combine emergency services, but I recommend that it be done under a single command. I am not recommending the demise of ARS, but instead reaching a middle ground on the best way to provide services going forward,” said Keim.

The village and fire district share oversight of the fire department under Fire Chief John Nixon, who said he supports extending the ARS contract although his staff could gear up quickly to take over rescue services.

The fire department is funded by taxpayers to provide fire protection services. ARS operates as a separate, private organization, partially funded by taxpayers and donations to provide ambulance services. It is now under the leadership of Acting Chief Brian DeKind.

The volunteer organization has been providing emergency medical services to the village for 72 years.

The fire department is also staffed by volunteers with some paid members. ARS contracts with Kurtz Paramedic Service for weekday coverage, but otherwise is staffed by volunteers.

“We’ve got a lot of homework to do over the next 90 days,” said Trustee George Sakas. “This will get us through the response by IDPH and meeting with the fire protection district. This gets us to mid-February to make some decisions.”

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