The Mid-County Rescue Squad, which has served the mid-Menominee County region for more than a half century, is about to make a major change in its operating policy. It will begin charging for its services.

This may come as a big surprise to the residents in the squad’s service area, but we’re not surprised. Let’s think of the many changes that have occurred in the health care field in the past six decades when the squad began making its way in the mid-county area.

Hospitals have closed. Two new hospitals were built. Medical clinics have closed and new clinics were established. A new and broad roster of physicians, surgeons and other specialists are serving area residents. Paramedics entered the health care field a long time ago. Billing practices have changed. The list of changes in health care is lengthy.

Pete Thoune and Menominee County Commissioner David Prestin, both members of the Mid-County Rescue Squad, recently addressed the Stephenson City Council and outlined the plan to begin charging insurance companies and municipalities for its services.

Perhaps one of the most overlooked changes in services is in the availability of volunteers. Whether in fire departments, rescue squads or auxiliary police its more difficult to recruit and train people to provide these types of public services. The decline in volunteerism extends to youth sports activities, Scouting and other social services.

“Mid-County is the last one. This is the last service that doesn’t charge,” Prestin told the Stephenson City Council.

Thoune pointed out the rescue squad is especially in need of younger volunteers, noting that most of the volunteers on the Mid-County squad are in their 60s, some are in their 70s and one is in his early 80s. He said one of the possibilities of recruiting new candidates would be to repay them. He said the compensation method has worked for other public services.

A slew of other details will have to be worked out before a realistic new plan can be established. Some municipalities may not want to go along with a new plan.

We applaud Thoune and Prestin for taking a serious public service problem to community leaders and laying the hard facts on the line. We believe open dialogue will be important in going forward where questions are answered, budget details outlined and manpower issues addressed.

Reorganizing the structure and policies of rescue squads now shouldn’t be any different than when these squads were originally organized many years ago. Understanding the problem and working hand-in-hand to fix the problem are critical in participating parties to move forward.