Honor amid the gathering gloom

A ceremony to honor emergency medical services personnel couldn’t escape the long shadows cast by the nearby Capitol and the looming gubernatorial race today.

On the former helipad of Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Mayor Chris Coleman, a possible gubernatorial candidate, said, “We all need to stand up… to protect people who don’t have the ability to provide for themselves,” referring to Gov. Pawlenty’s promise to cut medical care for the poor and mentally ill. “Let’s not lose what we have here,” he said outside a new wing of the trauma hospital.


Hospitals have started — or are expected to start — laying off people in anticipation of the cuts. “I’m humbled in light of what all of you are facing in the next few months,” Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, (on the right in the photo below) told the crowd of mostly hospital employees. He has announced plans to run for governor.


Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, (on the left in the photo above) who is also a candidate for governor, claimed some victory in the tax bill sent to Gov. Pawlenty; a provision that extends the ability of communities to increase the property tax for emergency medical services. “It was one line in a 300 page tax bill,” he said.

By the time the ceremony got around to the people who provide those services, however, most of the politicians had disappeared.

While the Capitol’s eight-month summer vacation is underway, the EMS people have gone back to work, stopping long enough for a rare moment in the spotlight.

Moses Alejado, Scott Swenson, Tony Vanneli, and Michael McGaene – St. Paul’s Medic 23 C Shift unit — responded when Mike Popovich felt his chest tighten during a post-bike-ride shower. They treated him, and took him to Regions, where the cardiac team performed an angioplasty. It took all of 31 minutes.

“There was a time, there, that I thought I might, perhaps, die,” Popovich told them today, shortly before asking them to sign a picture he took of them.


A helicopter medical team was also honored for rescuing a young girl in Baldwin, Wisconsin.


And representatives of Hennepin County Medical Center EMS, Allina Transportration, North Memorial Hospital, Lakes Region EMS and Kannebec County EMS were acknowledged for their works at the I-35W bridge collapse.


“In one hour and 35 minutes, they had cleared all four sections of the bridge and treated and transferred over 50 patients,” Minneapolis Fire Chief Alex Jackson said. “By the time the national media flew in to see the rescue, it was over.”