‘It’s a big relief’: Sun Prairie EMS replacing cardiac monitors thanks to DHS flex grant

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. — When you’re in an emergency and call an ambulance, you’re calling a truck staffed with professionals and thousands of dollars in lifesaving equipment. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services just awarded millions to EMS providers across the state to help offset some of those costs after the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Sun Prairie EMS received $141,490 from the total $12 million flex grant, which Governor Tony Evers boosted by $20 million on Tuesday.  

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As a testament to how expensive an ambulance service can be, most of the money is going toward replacing one piece of equipment on each vehicle – the cardiac monitor.  

“It allows us to run EKGs, blood pressure, pulse, respiratory rate, end-tidal CO2, oxygen saturation, cardiac rhythm, and things like that,” paramedic Chris Kaiser said.  

And the little machine has a big price tag.

“We need right now to replace four monitors, and we’ve gotten a quote from the company of $135,000 just for the monitors,”  Kaiser said.

That’s money that now won’t have to come out of the agency’s pockets thanks to the flex grant from DHS. 

“It’s a big relief because we didn’t know what we (were) going to do if one of our monitors went down. That means a truck’s out of service and with the demands that are placed in a growing area like Sun Prairie, and with our Marshall expansion, we cannot afford the downtime,” Kaiser said.

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Each ambulance, including the new one set to serve Marshall next year, gets a new monitor.  

According to Kaiser, the rest of the grant money will go toward training equipment.

“High-fidelity training mannequins cost a lot of money, as do the supplies that we use to train because we train with the same supplies that we use in patient care on the high-fidelity mannequins,” he said.  

It also allows them to focus on the other bigger costs of EMS work.  

“We’re also buying three additional ambulances, which are about 200, I believe $200,000 dollars a pop, Kaiser said. “I mean we have to replace equipment, there’s cost, there’s all kinds of expenses to run an ambulance service and ambulance services aren’t profit centers, they’re cost centers.” 

Kaiser says EMS agencies rely on support like this to provide a service the community relies on.  

“Funding services like this are a step in the right direction and I’m glad to see them doing it,” he said, “I hope it continues and we continue to support good quality ambulance services in Wisconsin.”  

Sun Prairie will start getting the first half of the grant payment on Sept. 30. The rest will be released after budget and progress reports are submitted. All funds have to be spent by next September.