Editor's column.

Are you worried about ambulance service in Sleepy Eye? I heard there has been a lot of talk around town, after Ambulance Coordinator Shari Hittesdorf spoke before the city council meeting last week. She was extremely concerned about continuing to provide 24/7 coverage if she would be limited in the hours she could be on call.

Well, there are some problems, but rest assured, the city is working hard to find a solution.

The council’s finance committee met at noon on Tuesday and the ambulance service was on the agenda. I don’t generally attend city committee meetings, both because I don’t usually know when they are, and because I realize they have work to do that will eventually be discussed and voted on at a regular city council meeting.

This time, I went to the meeting, because I wanted to hear what kind of solutions for ambulance coverage they would discuss.

Here is the problem in plain English: Shari works for the City of Sleepy Eye as Ambulance Coordinator and Emergency Manager. The Ambulance Service is short staffed and Shari fills a lot of on call shifts. The on call hours are considered working hours. So, for anyone already employed as an hourly city employee (such as Shari and SEMC employees) their on call hours for the Ambulance Service call for overtime pay.

In listening to the finance committee discussion, I learned that the overtime pay is not the main issue here. The city expects to pay overtime on occasion. The main issue is that Shari often puts in 100 hours a week. As City Manager Kelli Truver told the council — no one should work 100 hours a week. Even if they are willing to.

For now, Truver is working to find a solution. She has been speaking with an attorney at Flaherty & Hood (the law firm that provides advice to Minnesota cities on employment issues) to analyze the situation to learn if those on call hours are really “work” hours. Truver said there is some question about that, which seems to depend on the number of calls. She is hoping to get that opinion soon.

Truver also asked the council to consider if some of Shari’s duties could be diverted to other people, such as recruitment efforts, so her tasks would be less stressful.

Currently there are 14 active Emergency Medical Technicians or Emergency Medical Responders on the Ambulance Service roster. Twice that many might still not be enough to comfortably cover the shifts.

Clearly, recruitment is an important issue. I expect the city council will soon also be looking at ways the training can be provided affordably to prospective EMTs and EMRs. I think there is some program offered already. I tried to find information on the ambulance service or city’s websites. No luck there. There is even a “Join our Team” button on the ambulance service website. But clicking on that brought me to a blank page.