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The Reedsburg Area Ambulance Service officially upgraded to a full paramedic level Monday.

RAAS Director Josh Kowalke said it has been a long process, but the results he expects are going to be worth the wait and the expenditure for those needing emergency medical services.

"It's nice to have it done and moving forward," he said. "It's an exciting time for EMS in Reedsburg."

The upgrade led to the addition of three full-time paramedics, four part-time paramedics and new equipment and medicines. Kowalke said the transition in service levels from EMT-intermediate to Paramedic has been very smooth - with one exception.

"The fly car won't be here until the middle of February," he said. "It's been on order since Oct. 20 and they told us it would be eight to 10 weeks."

The fly car is a vehicle one paramedic will take to a call in an attempt to be the first emergency responder.

It will be equipped with medicines and equipment that can save lives and reduce pain for patients.

Kowalke said there has been a silver lining in the delay. Because some of the full-time paramedics are not from the area, he said, it has given them a chance to ride along with EMTs who have experience in the area and know how to get around.

Although the fly car isn't here yet, it doesn't mean RAAS doesn't already have the new medicines and equipment that only paramedics are licensed to use, Kowalke said.

"In the four days we've been Paramedic, we've used pain medicines we haven't been able to use in the past," he said. "The pain control has helped. That's a big part of medicine these days."

But pain treatment is only one factor in providing paramedic care, Kowalke said. RAAS now has access to medications that can control blood pressure, stop seizures and halt allergic reactions, he said, as well as equipment to attempt to restore heart rhythms to a natural tempo.

Another aspect that Kowalke excited is the transfers RAAS will be able to do starting Jan. 31. Because they now have paramedics, they are allowed to transfer patients from Reedsburg to Madison hospitals -- something that can be comforting for the patient and also generates money for RAAS.

In the past a paramedic service, usually from Baraboo, would have to come to the Reedsburg service area to pick up a patient for transfer to a hospital in another city. By the end of the month, patients will be able to experience faster, less complicated transfers.

People in the area have been happy that the level of service is improving with RAAS, but not everybody supported the switch because of one factor - the cost to taxpayers.

The Reedsburg Common Council said they were in favor of the switch, but did not want to spend the money RAAS was requesting to start their new service. RAAS was requesting to raise its municipal fee from $3 to $7 per capita.

Reedsburg City Administrator John Dougherty said the difference meant the city council would have to find an additional $36,000 for the ambulance service. After months of budget meeting last summers and fall, the council was able to squeeze in the added ambulance expense and approved the fee increase in late September 2010.

Although some on the council said the city simply could not afford the ambulance improvement, Mayor Dave Estes has been a strong supporter of the upgrade.

"I think it's a very important thing for the city to do this," he said in September. "It's a no-brainer, in my mind."

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