To paraphrase Mark Twain, “reports of the critical condition of Hudson EMS are greatly exaggerated.”
“Hudson EMS on life support; plan proposed” reads the headline of the July 17, 2017 Hudson Hub-Times. The story opens with “The Emergency Medical Service needs resuscitation or it will be in crisis, a city committee reports.”
This could put some unnecessary uncertainty into many residents, particularly those who may be in poor health and their caregivers who may worry that EMS services could somehow be compromised.
I want to state upfront, that I believe all of Council and staff will do anything necessary to assure the continued level of support of Emergency Medical Services that Hudson residents have come to expect. Period.
Everything else is a discussion of how we go about funding that service. I feel EMS service, along with other safety services, is Job 1 of any City. We will find a way to get it done.
The story goes on to do a good job of explaining the results of a City committee report –that levels of volunteers are down, and that revenues have failed to keep pace with our expenses. As the report explains, EMS revenues come from two sources, roughly 2/3 from a portion of the City Income Tax and the remainder from billing of health insurance where applicable.
In recent years we have added a third source, money from the general fund. This is our “backup,” and the City’s general fund is healthy. We are able hire the recommended staff now to provide the coverage, so as I said, there is no crisis when it comes to level of care.
The income tax allocation was put in place by Hudson voters in 2004, replacing specific property tax levies that had dedicated purposes. The City Income Tax increased from the existing 1% to 2% with portions allocated to Parks, Schools, Fire and EMS. The solution that was proposed was to pool the Fire and EMS allocation to allow more discretion in future funding.
Again, please read the news story for details. I note that the online version linked here has been rewritten from the print edition, with a “toned-down” headline and lede paragraph.
The issue for me is that this has been brought to our attention with only days to consider before must take action. Council can’t act on the change, but it must pass legislation to go the Board of Elections before August 9th for the issue to be on the November 2017 ballot and the funding to be available in 2018. As I said at the July 11 Workshop, working under a tight deadline does not promote a thoughtful discussion and understanding of the problem. I had hoped that we were working towards getting a better perspective on the long-term challenges facing the City, to avoid just this type of situation. Council has known EMS staffing and funding was an issue, but not to the extent presented on July 11th. That structure is in critical condition, to bring us back to the start. It needs more discussion and understanding before November.