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Mercy EMS, Inc. celebrates 50-year milestone serving the Keweenaw

This year marks a significant milestone for Mercy EMS, Inc., in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. That’s because it’s the organization’s 50-year anniversary and Aspirus Keweenaw and UP Health System – Portage invites everyone to celebrate.

Mercy EMS, Inc. is a paramedic/advanced life support (ALS) service that serves Houghton and Keweenaw counties. The service area spans 1,250 square miles and covers a population of 38,000 people. On average, Mercy EMS responds to 3,000 emergency 911 calls per year and over 500 hospital-to-hospital transfers to its regional medical center two hours away. The company has 14 full-time positions and 17 part-time employees operating a fleet of seven ambulances, five of which are ALS equipped. Three duty and backup crews are scheduled 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“We are celebrating a very significant milestone for Mercy EMS. Our community is very fortunate to have emergency medical services with such dedication for such a long time,” Randy Neiswonger, UP Health System – Portage CEO said. “We owe Mercy EMS a debt of gratitude for everything they have done for our community over the past 50 years.”

From humble beginnings

In 1969, EMS was a term that was nonexistent. The standard of care throughout the country consisted of very basic first aid, “lights and sirens” and a “fast ride” to the nearest hospital. Federal legislation regulating the provision of ambulance service was the reason the local providers exited. In 1969, Mercy Ambulance Service started. As a standalone company, Mercy Ambulance offered basic life support (BLS) standard of care utilizing emergency medical technicians (EMTs).

First licensed ALS Support Service in Michigan

By 1976, Mercy Ambulance was privately owned by Gerald and Patricia Primeau of Calumet. At the same time, Dr. David Gilbert saw a need for a more advanced system and became an integral part of the ALS standard of care. After rigorous requirements and training, Mercy Ambulance became the first licensed ALS support service in Michigan, an accomplishment that is still revered today.

Changing hands

In 2003, Mercy Ambulance was sold to Marquette General Health System and became Mercy EMS, Inc. Five years later, UP Health System – Portage and Aspirus Keweenaw purchased Mercy EMS from Marquette General and is governed jointly by a board of directors consisting of administrators and physicians at both hospitals.

As with any organization, a lot can happen over 50 years and Mercy EMS, Inc. is no exception.

For more information about Mercy EMS, Inc., visit mercyems.com.