Chillicothe's 'Rescue 33' notified its license is being 'permanently suspended'

By Maggie Vespa

August 31, 2012 Updated Aug 31, 2012 at 10:29 PM CDT

CHILLICOTHE, Ill. -- The decades-old landscape of volunteer, free emergency services in one central Illinois town may be no more.

Friday night, directors of Chillicothe's 'Rescue 33' confirmed they have been notified by Peoria Area EMS, and that their license is being 'permanently suspended' as of 6 a.m. Tuesday morning.

The group was placed on probation a few weeks ago, following complaints concerning lagging response times.

We spoke to Rescue 33 president Ron Hedden via phone.

He says a letter sent by PAEMS details how the group failed to satisfy all the conditions of that probation, including proper staffing and scheduling.

Hedden says they plan to appeal the decision. They have 15 days to do so.

"Our goal is still to provide the free service. It may become tax supported or some other way to fund it because depending on people to make ambulance calls is extremely expensive."

We also spoke via phone to Peoria Area EMS Medical Director Cheryl Colbenson.

She says officials trying to ensure residents have "reliable, consistent, timely and safe EMS service."

Recently Chillicothe officials voted to place a referendum on the November ballot.

If approved it would give the city the authority to implement a tax to help fund 'Rescue 33'.

In the meantime, Chillicothe officials say they are working on a deal with AMT services out of Peoria.

Residents would have to transition from a free ambulance service to a paid one, possibly upwards of $1,000 a trip.

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