Rural EMS Departments struggle to provide care - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Rural EMS Departments struggle to provide care

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KWWL -

Will an ambulance respond during your medical emergency? It's a problem many Iowans are currently facing. 

Relying on volunteer paramedics, rural departments are struggling to keep their ambulances staffed and their programs funded.  It's a problem the Hansen family in Hudson faced firsthand.

Tim Hansen suffered a heart attack in July of last year. His daughter tried to get him medical attention, but when the call went out for volunteer EMS in Hudson, only one was able to respond and could not alone transport Hansen to the hospital.

Hansen died before Waterloo's Covenant paramedics could reach him.

"We want to just help those departments that are struggling. We know that they are people who have other lives, that they are volunteers, that they have children, that they have other jobs. But how can communities help for this not to happen again?" said Tim's wife, Donna Hansen in a KWWL interview earlier this year.

It's a question local EMS leaders are trying to answer.

"Solving this issue is a big problem in itself. Where do we start? We have started with a grassroots effort," said Bremer County Emergency Management Coordinator, Kip Ladage.

Ladage holding a town hall in Waverly to let many people know there is a crisis.

"Many of them think you have to show up. What could happen is that the ambulance provider, whereever you are, could pull the plug at midnight and say, 'We are done. We just can't do it.' There are services throughout the state that have been closing down. They have very nice equipment, very nice garages, they just don't have the manpower to staff it," said Bremer County EMS Association President, Jim Schutte.

Departments can no longer rely on volunteers to take up the positions retirees are leaving. But with no required state or local funding, they can't afford to pay people either.

"There is no requirement. No law that says we have to exist. Unless we get some volunteers and funding, it is going to crumble," said Ladage.

EMS leaders want to make EMS an essential service under state law, which would qualify them for state and local funding.  They are asking residents to reach out to their elected officials to voice their concerns. 

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