As of Sept. 18 the administrative staff of the Tomah Area Ambulance Service is occupying a new facility.
The space was loaned to TAAS by Tomah Memorial Hospital.
TAAS director Randy Dunford said it’s a temporary move because space is an issue at the present ambulance garage and bungalow sleeping quarters.
“We’re hoping that our stay here will be relatively short,” he said. “We need to look at a new building project in the very near future relatively quick due to our need for growth to meet our calls for service. Right now with our current personnel levels, we’re just not meeting the calls for demand because we have no place to bed people to cover the shifts.”
The building is too small to fit TAAS’ needs, Dunford said. He said the service outgrown the 1996 structure and the 2005 addition. He added that the the building wasn’t constructed to accommodate a near full-time staff.
“We don’t have enough room to sleep everyone in there,” he said. “We currently have two bedrooms, each bedroom has two beds. However the problem you run into is the mixed sexes that are involved. Sometimes you could have one female working and four or five males working, and because you have the one female in one bedroom all of a sudden you don’t have enough beds to house the others, or vice versa. You never know how many males or females are going to be working at any one time, and only four beds.”
To help the situation cots and recliners have been set up in the lounge area of the bungalow.
Another issue is the lack of a kitchen. The facility has a small sink, microwave, refrigerator and a small grill out back, but nothing substantial to cook a meal, Dunford said.
“When you’re staffing somebody for 24 hours, we have to have the ability to take care of them,” he said. “We have to feed them.”
The first step is a remodel of the garage and bungalow until a new facility is built, Dunford said. Both are works in progress.
“Because of the position of the building and the layout, it makes more sense to rebuild vs. trying to add on to the building that’s 21 years old,” he said. “That’s why we’re looking at that decision, plus, on top of that, Tomah Memorial Hospital has reached out to us to partner with the city, and they’re offering building space on their new land ... where the new hospital will be located. That would allow us to partner ever further with the hospital staff.”
He said the proximity to the hospital would give TAAS “the ability to help them if they get busy in the ER.”
Dunford also hopes to expand the service to have two full-time ambulances.
“My goal with the ambulance service is to get us to staff two ambulances full-time and use the part-time staffing to staff our third and fourth ambulances,” he said. “What I’m requesting with our budget is that we hire the additional staffing to staff one ambulance right now, get those people trained and then do another hiring process and staff the second ambulance.”
It’s a needed change as the need for services continues to grow, Dunford said.
“The transfer service is an area that we’re failing in; we are not meeting that demand that we currently have,” he said. “Statistically we’re meeting about 50 to 55 percent of the hospital’s transfer needs for Tomah Memorial, and we’re probably a little less than that dealing with our veterans hospital. That takes personnel, and I do see that eventually where we’ll have three, if not four, ambulances staffed full-time.”
There would be no expense to the tax base, the city budget or mill rate, Dunford said, since TAAS is a free-standing enterprise while publicly owned.
“We’re self-funded, so the revenue that we’re currently losing − and that’s what I give the council every month—is that the revenue that we’re currently losing by not meeting these demands will more than fund the additional employees to cover that cost,” he said.
But staff is needed to be full-time, and they need the space and sleeping quarters to make that happen, Dunford said.
The remodel, new building project and staff changes have to be approved by the city council. Dunford hopes to have a proposal to the city council for the building projects by November and will including his full-time service proposal in the 2018 budget proposal that will be presented Oct. 14.