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Suamico Fire Department pursuing EMR service

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

SUAMICO – The village’s fire department is seeking to start an emergency medical responder (EMR) service to respond to emergency medical service (EMS) calls in Suamico.

As part of that process, the village board voted Feb. 1 to approve a one-year emergency medical service medical director agreement with Aurora BayCare Medical Center for Dr. Bob Zemple to serve as medical director.

Prior to the board meeting, Suamico Assistant Fire Chief Chris Gabryszek, who also is director of operations for County Rescue, which currently provides the village EMS, discussed what the EMR designation will mean for the village.

“As part of our state application process, we needed to have a public meeting just to discuss the addition of EMR-level license to Suamico Fire Department and to be able to function at an EMR level as a fire department,” he said.

Gabryszek said the fire department’s EMR designation would not replace County Rescue, but would be in addition to County Rescue’s response.

“We will be responding as an emergency medical responder service, so in the state EMS licensure levels, EMR is the beginning level, then it goes to EMT (emergency medical technician), then advanced EMT and then paramedic,” he said.

Of the fire department’s approximately 44 members, Gabryszek said roughly half are already trained at some EMS license level.

“We’ve got four EMRs, we’ve got nine EMTs, one advanced EMT – which is me, two paramedics and then two critical care paramedics,” he said.

Because the license the fire department is applying for is at the EMR level, Gabryszek said firefighters will only be allowed to perform skills at that level.

He said the fire department’s duty crew will generally have EMR-trained staff available weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Gabryszek said the EMS service will be a first responder-level service, with the fire department not transporting patients on its own.

“We will not have our own ambulances,” he said. “We’ll be using our fire trucks and our fire apparatuses to respond to calls. We’ll be there to provide support to County Rescue and the paramedics that will ultimately be transporting patients.”

Gabryszek said firefighters would be able to provide lifting assistance for patients, for example, while no additional staff would be required at this time.

“Part of the administration of this every day will fall on my shoulders,” he said. “I’ll take over as the EMS director and assistant chief. The day-to-day operations will be handled by me. The response will be already trained on-duty staff, so again, we’ll start right away with the half of the department that already has training.”

Gabryszek said the department is looking for grant opportunities and other ways of funding additional training for firefighters who are interested.

“It will be no additional cost for this program to the village,” he said. “The training and those items will get rolled into our existing training schedule. It shouldn’t result in any further cost to the village.”

Gabryszek said the EMR service is “a win-win for everyone.”

“It gets more skilled hands out in the community,” he said. “It gets people the help they need in a timely fashion.”

Gabryszek said he hopes the fire department will be able to begin the EMR service in the coming months.

Without the EMR license, he said some care firefighters could provide, such as lift assists and using an EpiPen or Narcan, fell in a “gray area where people can do it as a Good Samaritan,” but it would be better to have staff trained and licensed.

Gabryszek said the EMR equipment would be provided by County Rescue.

With a new Fire Station No. 1 nearing completion in Suamico, County Rescue will also be housed in the facility.

The board previously approved a 15-year lease agreement, in which County Rescue will use designated areas of the new fire station and pay the village $35,000 per year, prorated.

County Rescue also agreed during that time to provide EMS in the village for $70,000 per year, the same rate the village was contracted to pay County Rescue in 2020.

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