Official: Rescue squad set to close its doors
DELAVAN The Delavan Rescue Squad is slated to close at the end of March, Delavan City Administrator Denise Pieroni said Monday.
Pieroni said city officials and the board of the private, nonprofit service are working to prevent the closing. She declined to go into specifics.
"We're looking at some options, and they're looking at some options, in terms of cooperation," Pieroni said.
The rescue squad is committed to maintaining an ambulance with paramedic services until the end of March, she said.
A source with knowledge of the situation who asked not to be identified said about 20 of the squad's paid staff were told Saturday that they were laid off, effective immediately, and services would be cut.
The source told The Gazette that finances are the problem.
Cathy Mestan, who handles public relations for the rescue squad, said she's hopeful board members and the city will find a solution. She declined to comment further.
Other Delavan Rescue Squad officials could not be reached for comment Monday.
The Delavan City Council is scheduled to discuss the rescue squad behind closed doors tonight. The item is not in open session because of "competitive or bargaining reasons," according to the meeting notice.
The rescue squad, founded in 1941, is one of only a handful of private, nonprofit paramedic services in the state. It is headquartered at 1436 Mound Road in Delavan.
The squad is staffed by both volunteers and paid workers. It provides 911 services for the city of Delavan and the town of Richmond. It has handled paramedic intercepts and medical facility transfers for communities in Walworth County, but two sources told the Gazette that now it is handling only 911 calls.
It is the only paramedic rescue squad in Walworth County and serves as a CPR training center.
Monday's chatter on Facebook about a possible closing was enough to surprise many who use the squad's service.
"This just came out of the blue," said Rich Gruber, a vice president for Mercy Health Systems, which operates facilities in both Rock and Walworth counties.
Gruber said Delavan Rescue Squad makes trips to Mercy Walworth Hospital and Medical Center in Lake Geneva regularly.
Town of Richmond Clerk Barbara Ceas said the town recently renewed its contract with Delavan Rescue Squad for 2013.
Ceas said she'd received a call Monday from someone at another ambulance service, but she couldn't remember the company's name.
"That person called me this morning and said they were considering an offer to purchase the Delavan Rescue Squad and wanted to know if we had any complaints about their service because we've contracted with them for the past few years. I was able to tell them, ‘No, we haven't had any complaints,'" Ceas said.
Larry Knuth, vice president of operations at Paratech, a for-profit ambulance company based in Milwaukee said he learned about changes in Delavan last week. Paratech has grown to handle ambulance calls in surrounding counties, including Walworth County.
Knuth said he was told by Delavan Rescue Squad on Friday that the company would no longer be transporting patients between medical facilities.
Knuth declined to talk in specifics, but he said ambulance companies can get into trouble if they overextend themselves financially.
The rescue squad built a new vehicle storage building and main office in 2011.
Gazette reporter Frank Schultz contributed to this report.