Concerns over long-term future of EMS service in rural Iowa - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Concerns over long-term future of EMS service in rural Iowa

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FLOYD COUNTY (KWWL) -

There's growing concern about the future of ambulance service in many parts of rural Iowa.

Many EMS services rely on volunteers - and many of those volunteers are retiring from serving.

That means numbers are dwindling and could affect response times if you have an emergency.

In the state of Iowa, police and fire services are considered essential - no matter where you live.

EMS services are not.

In theory, that means if you call 911, a paramedic is not guaranteed to show up.

It's not a state law.

Of course, they do but in many parts of rural Iowa, they say they're worried about the future of EMS services.

A forum in Floyd County Thursday about rural ambulance service showed concerns about fewer volunteers, increased costs, and longer ambulance runs.

Kip Ladage is the Bremer County emergency manager and is a volunteer EMT in Tripoli.

"Across the state, if you've got a small town where most people go into EMS have to go to work out of town and that's left your town with not enough staff to answer that pager when it goes off in the middle of the day and we need to address that," said Ladage.

That's part of the reason State Senator Mary Jo Wilhelm, Representative Todd Prichard and the Iowa Emergency Medical Services Association held a forum Thursday in Floyd with EMS providers.

They're concerned about a lack of funding and no support from the state of Iowa.

"I want to see it flourish and the scary part is where will it be in 10 years? Do you want your loved ones to wait 15 minutes. If we can solve this, we have to do it now," said Wilhelm.

In Chickasaw County, there are 5 ambulances to cover the entire county. When you add in mutual aid and other transports, response times could be even more delayed.

Chickasaw Ambulance Service is private - with a contract through the Chickasaw Co. Board of Supervisors.

It has 40 volunteers available - a number that has been cut in half over the last ten years and continues to dwindle.

One common concern is that the number of behavioral health transports have increased - which are usually to far away places.

"Mental health transports are more than ever before. We're having trouble finding hospitals near us to accept these patients. We've had to transport to Sioux City and to the Quad Cities. That takes our ambulance away from the county for multiple hours and that's a great concern of ours," said Chickasaw Ambulance Service owner Jeremy McGrath.

According to a survey last year, nearly half of the state's EMTs are volunteers.

75% are over the age of 35.

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