MATTOON -- The Fire Department's ambulance service ended at the scheduled time of 7 a.m. Wednesday, and the two private services in Mattoon are now handling all of the local ambulance calls.
City officials set the July 25 end date after the Mattoon City Council voted on July 18, 2017 to eliminate the fire department's ambulance service as a cost-cutting measure.
Assistant Chief Sean Junge said firefighters are disappointed that they will no longer be able to provide an ambulance service for Mattoon. However, Junge said they appreciate that the city has opted to keep the fire department's advanced life support equipment in operation.
Junge said Mattoon firefighters will no longer provide emergency medical transportation, but they will be dispatched to emergency scenes if an ambulance is not immediately available. He said the firefighters will be able to provide advanced life support care on scene if needed until an ambulance crew arrives to take the patient to the hospital.
"We are going to bridge that gap," Junge said.
Bart Owen, president of Mattoon Firefighters Local 691, said firefighters on Wednesday transferred advanced life support equipment from the department's three former ambulances to three fire trucks. Owen said the fire trucks have storage spaces available for this equipment, although a lot of items needed to be moved around to make room.
The advanced life support equipment gives the firefighters the capability to treat heart attacks, breathing difficulty, diabetes complications and other life-threatening health issues until ambulance crews arrive at the scene.
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Owen said the fire truck at the 2700 Marshall Ave. fire station, on the west side of the train tracks, will be one of the department's trucks with advanced life support equipment. Mattoon Fire Department did not keep an ambulance at the small Marshall Avenue station when its ambulance service was in operation.
The two private services in operation in Mattoon are Mitchell-Jerdan Ambulance Service and Dunn's Ambulance. Mitchell-Jerdan, based in Mattoon, has provided an ambulance since 1934. Dunn's, based in Taylorville, has been operating in Mattoon since 2008. The fire department's ambulance service started full time in 2011.
City Administrator Kyle Gill said Dunn's and Mitchell-Jerdan both have opted to go through the application process under the new city's regulations for private ambulance services. He said Abbott EMS, which operates ambulances in Effingham, inquired about the city's ambulance regulations and Coles County 911's rotation system for ambulance calls in Mattoon but has not submitted an application.
Gill said the city plans to keep the fire department's three former ambulances in storage for the time being. He noted that the city and the firefighters union are still going through grievance processes regarding the ambulance service elimination and an arbitration process for completing a new contract.
City officials have said that the fire department's ambulance service lost money and duplicated the work of private providers. The firefighters union countered that the department's service generated needed revenue for the city and provided essential ambulance coverage for Mattoon.
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