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updated: 3/2/2012 10:25 AM

Lombard delays vote on ambulance fee

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Repeatedly calling 911 for in-home assistance may soon come with a cost in Lombard.

Trustees are considering an ordinance that would give 911 calls for help without transportation to a hospital a $100 price tag beginning with the sixth call each year and including all additional calls.

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If the fee were in place in 2011, nine residents would have been charged for at least one paramedic response, according to a memo from Lombard fire Lt. Paul DiRienzo.

Of those nine residents, five are in their 80s or older, and the other four have health issues such as multiple sclerosis, a history of stroke or heart problems.

The fee received preliminary approval and was set to be approved officially Thursday night, but Trustee Zachary Wilson asked for it to be considered again at the Lombard village board's March 15 meeting.

"I'm concerned about the ability to pay of someone who's 80 years old," Wilson said.

The fee could be waived by Lombard Finance Director Tim Sexton based on an evaluation of the resident's ability to pay.

Acting fire Chief Jerry Howell said the fire department works to educate residents who frequently call 911 for in-home assistance about social service agencies or home care providers that could help.

"We know that when we see a case that would trigger this ordinance, our first recourse would be to do some sort of intervention," Howell said.

Department personnel would pay a personal visit to the person's home and suggest organizations that could meet their health care needs and improve their quality of life, according to DiRienzo's memo. Residents also could be referred to the Association for Individual Development, an Aurora-based social services agency the village has contracted to provide counseling, advocacy, education and intervention for people or families in need.

"We've done a lot of outreach to our residents, especially through our victim services, which is our third party, as to reduce invalid assists," Lombard Village Manager David Hulseberg said.

The 293 calls for in-home assistance, also known as "invalid assists," made up 6 percent of the 4,593 ambulance calls the Lombard Fire Department received in 2011.

If the fee receives final approval, Lombard will become the fourth fire department in DuPage County to charge for invalid assists, joining Naperville and Warrenville and the Tri-State Fire Protection District in the Darien area.

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