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Is the ambulance partnership still good for Taylor County?

A partnership is an arrangement where parties agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests. For a partnership to succeed, whether in business or in a marriage, the work and rewards each party receives must be balanced.

Decades ago Taylor County leaders recognized the need to provide emergency medical services to county residents. Whether it is the trauma of an accident scene or a medical emergency at home, there is a need for trained individuals to respond and ensure that patients get access to the care they need.

Faced with the need for this service, the county turned to what was then Memorial Hospital of Taylor County with the idea of a partnership. The county would purchase and outfit the ambulances and provide an annual subsidy of the service with the hospital overseeing the operations on a day to day basis.

As partnerships go, it has been one that has benefited both the local hospital and the residents of Taylor County providing an important service while working to keep costs under control. With ambulances stationed in Medford, Rib Lake and Gilman the county’s population centers are covered and response times kept as minimal as possible.

Over the years, the name and ownership structure of the local hospital has changed. The hospital went from being an independent, locally managed medical facility serving the residents of Taylor County to being part of the larger Aspirus System. This has greatly expanded medical care and the services available in the community.

However, with those changes, and resulting staffing changes, the relationship with Taylor County has been changed. New hospital system leadership is calling on the service to move from being locally-based to having the day to day decisions coming from Wausau and Taylor County’s way of doing things forced into the model with which they are familiar.

Taylor County’s partnership with the local hospital was built on the necessity of providing a service in a situation where it was fiscally prohibitive for a private entity to do the job. It is a unique arrangement. It is far more common to see it as a contracted service or as part of local fire and rescue organizations.

The current arrangement works only so long as it is mutually beneficial for it to continue and where both Aspirus and Taylor County are equal partners.

With the announcement that Marshfield Clinic System is planning to open a facility in Medford, there will be more options for local healthcare including emergency treatment.

In light of these changes, Taylor County must reevaluate its current partnership with Aspirus Medford Hospital and decide if the partnership is still working, or if it is time for a change.

Taylor County supervisors should not rush into signing any agreements or making major changes to how emergency medical services are provided until they are assured those changes will benefit local residents. Supervisors need to ask the question if the ambulance partnership is still working for the best interests of Taylor County residents.