SIOUX CITY | Leadership in the southeastern South Dakota fire district that includes North Sioux City and Dakota Dunes is edging closer to a solution that could fill its upcoming void in paramedic care when Siouxland Paramedics' emergency response ends Dec. 31.
The Dakota Valley Fire District is exploring an agreement that would allow Sioux City Fire Rescue's new EMS Division to provide paramedic service within the district's boundaries.
For many years, the district -- which encompasses North Sioux City, Dakota Dunes, Big Sioux Township and Wynstone -- has had an agreement with Siouxland Paramedics to provide ambulance services. Siouxland Paramedics responded 348 times in the area during the fiscal year ending June 30.
Siouxland Paramedics' announcement four months ago that it would stop providing those services at year's end prompted discussions among district leaders about how they could fill the void quickly. Potential solutions included contracting with a new private ambulance service, staffing up the district's own ambulance service or contracting with Sioux City.
Earlier this year, the fire district went out for bids on potential private ambulance services, but the rates were too high, he said.
"The bids that came back either weren't interested or were unacceptable," said North Sioux City Fire Chief Bill Pappas.
Discussions have since focused on an offer extended by Sioux City to work toward a partnership. Chief Tom Everett with Sioux City Fire Rescue said the department has been working with the district on a potential agreement.
"We're meeting this week about some questions that we both have," Everett told the Journal Wednesday. He added that a draft agreement is being prepared at this time.
Under such an agreement, Dakota Valley would still provide first response to a scene with its own ambulance, but in cases where paramedic assistance is needed, Sioux City would then respond with a paramedic and transport the patient using its own ambulance.
Sioux City would then require the district to guarantee an amount per patient that would be paid to Sioux City. Sioux City would bill each patient, but if it only collects a portion of the guaranteed amount set forth in the agreement, Dakota Valley would make up the difference. The agreement would also include a minimum amount per year.
Dollar amounts are still under discussion.
Sioux City's EMS Division will include 27 employees. The division will assume 911 services within Sioux City limits Jan. 1. Like Siouxland Paramedics, the city will bill patients for use of the ambulance service.
The Sioux City Council established the fees it will bill patients during a council meeting earlier this week. The division is expected to cost taxpayers between $600,000 and $1 million per year.
Everett said an agreement with Dakota Valley could allow Sioux City to hire more staff, bringing the total number up to around 30. Those details remain under discussion, he said.
Everett said, if all is approved, an agreement could come before the Sioux City Council early next year.
Pappas said this is a potential idea, but things still remain up in the air. Dakota Valley holds its next meeting 9 a.m. Monday at the North Sioux City Fire Station, 205 Sodrac Drive. He said Dakota Valley could end up staffing its own paramedic service whether it forms an agreement with Sioux City or not.
"There's always a chance we would do this on our own," Pappas said. "It's a question of how fast we could get that operation going. We could start an ambulance service tomorrow, but we'd have to hire paramedics."