As you may have read in the Green Bay Press Gazette, or seen news coverage of our ruling regarding the Hook & Ladder program, the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission has delivered a ruling in favor of the City of Green Bay. I think providing some information into what that means is appropriate and I will try to keep it short.
Under the Affordable Care Act if a patient is discharged for a medical procedure and returns due to complications of that procedure within a 30 day period the healthcare facility may not be able to recoup the costs of the second visit. To reduce these occurrences of non reimbursement, health care facilities are experimenting with ways to reduce readmissions. The Hook & Ladder program places your Fire Fighters in homes of discharged patients within 72 hour of their discharge. Some studies have shown that contact with a trusted source, such as a Fire Fighter, will have a comforting effect on the patient, resulting in lowering the chances of the patient returning to the health care facility, thus reducing the chances of non reimbursement. Part of the problem involves recouping the cost of the service to the taxpayer. Studies have shown that hospitals stand to lose thousands of dollars per readmit and the standard for the service about to be provided by your Fire Fighters is between $150 and $300. The $50 currently being paid does not cover the cost of fuel as well as wear and tear on the fire trucks, time for your Fire Fighters, and any supplies that may be used. Another area of concern is a public service being used to give an unfair advantage to a private business. If this program is used at one hospital, it should be worked out with the others as well. Finally, and most important, the program must not interfere with our primary objective of responding to a call from 911 for help, which sometimes gets lost in the conversation when the talk of additional money coming in is on the table.
The Hook & Ladder program puts the Green Bay Area Fire Fighters in a new position as far as what Fire Fighters do. The question raised by our grievance was never whether we wanted to do the program, but rather is home health care part of our job. As the arbitrator has ruled it now is part of what we do, the question is no longer up for debate. This is a perfect example of how the process should play out even though we lost, we still have a responsibility to our customers to provide the type of service they want, and that is what we will do. The fire service has always had the history of showing up to help whenever needed, no matter the problem.
Our hope is that the city works with us on setting up a program that involves our input as responders, and part of that program involves the priority of emergency response, after all that is why we exist.
Green Bay Area Fire Fighters