State Representative Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) introduced House Bill 5065 today that would exempt only Ontonagon County from the licensing requirement that ambulance services provide Advanced Life Support (ALS) on a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week basis. Ontonagon County’s only ambulance service, the nonprofit SONCO, has been unable to sustain 24-7 ALS services, leaving residents without any ALS service whatsoever.

As the law currently stands, SONCO’s employees cannot provide more than Basic Life Support (BLS) services, which prevents paramedics from mechanically ventilating patients, administering EKG interventions, or providing patients with potentially life-saving medications while in transit. With the passage of HB 5065, SONCO could provide ALS transport and transfers on a part-time basis to more than 6,400 residents who currently are without this coverage.

“SONCO has tried and failed to implement 24-7 ALS services. Unfortunately, it has been proven time and again that these regulations just aren’t going to work for Ontonagon,” said Dianda. “But SONCO can provide safe ALS transport and transfers on a part-time basis. It is a much better alternative than forcing patients to wait until an ambulance from Marquette or Houghton is available. Waiting puts lives at risk and jeopardizes patients’ long-term recovery.”

Without 24-7 ALS ambulances in the area, Aspirus Ontonagon — a critical access hospital — does not have the ability to transport its patients to Marquette General, the nearest higher-level care hospital. Additionally, Ontonagon is located outside of Marquette and Houghton ambulance service zones, meaning that patients in that facility are considered the lowest priority for ambulance transport. Patients have waited up to 20 hours before they can begin the 114 mile ambulance ride to Marquette. The total lack of ALS service in Ontonagon is unique in all of Michigan.

“It is vital that the people of Ontonagon County are given a solution to this problem,” Dianda said. “I hope my colleagues in the House understand the need to act in a bipartisan fashion to pass this bill, and that it is considered as soon as possible. Ontonagon County residents should not have to wait any longer to get the care they need.”