Some rural EMS directors are looking toward a new state law to help train more volunteer medical responders and keep them on the job.
The law allows counties to declare EMS an essential service like police or fire and collect taxes to pay for it. Julie Scadden is the ambulance service director for Dysart in east-central Iowa. Scadden says her department is depending on fundraisers and Medicare fees from transporting patients.
“We can’t rely on it from year to year because you just don’t know,” Scadden says. “With COVID, Dysart as an example, we dropped 46-percent of our transport during 2020 and so our revenue dropped 46-percent.” About 80% of the medical responders in Dysart are volunteers. Scadden says the program was already shorthanded before seven people stopped volunteering last year over concerns they could be exposed to coronavirus.
“That, I think, is one of our biggest struggles, trying to get the volunteers to come back,” she says, “and because workforce issues for all jobs, regardless of whether it’s EMS or not, are just really tough for everybody right now.” Scadden says local taxes could help rural programs cover the cost of training and equipment. She says Dysart is in the early stages of organizing an emergency EMS resolution.
The law requires approval from county supervisors and at least 60-percent of voters. Scadden made her comments on the Iowa Public Radio program, “River to River.”
(By Grant Gerlock, Iowa Public Radio)