EMS agencies ask for state funding - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

EMS agencies ask for state funding

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Emergency medical service volunteers in Iowa visited the state capital Thursday to ask for state funding for EMS. 

Where you live could determine whether you survive an emergency.  The reality for some who live in rural areas in Iowa is that they might not get an ambulance in time. 

There are a number of factors why, including a lack of state funding, which is what multiple EMS groups asked legislators for today.  

The Iowa EMS Association (IEMSA) says it's statewide problem for rural areas. In order to change, IEMSA says EMS needs to be considered an essential service.

"EMS is not an essential service in the state of Iowa," said IEMSA President Mark McCulloch. "It means that there's no rule that says your local jurisdiction has to provide their citizens with EMS coverage. We think Iowans expect that, and that's what we're asking for."

The wide landscape of the state means a number of rural EMS departments are made up of volunteer paramedics. Currently, they're struggling to keep their ambulances staffed and their programs funded because the majority of the money comes through community fundraising. 

McCulloch says the growing demands making it a challenge to recruit.

"These people pay for their own education," said McCulloch. "They pay for their own continuing education. During both of those times they're away from their families. Then when they come out to their communities and start working as an EMS provider, they have to drop everything for calls for service. On top of that we're asking them to find funds to keep their agency afloat. They have to find funds to buy diesel fuel. They have to find funds to buy their ambulance and equip it. So the ask is just phenomenal. It's ridiculous what we're asking volunteers. And in the face of changing volunteerism across our state, it's getting harder for us to find people who are willing to do that for their communities, and that's a scary thing for us. 

He say legislators are in support but they're struggling to agree on a sustainable source of revenue that works for the entire state.

Ideas tossed around as to how to fund EMS include a tobacco tax increase, or using a portion of the money collected from speeding tickets and DUI's. 

"Now, we hope that revenue disappears at some point, that people quit smoking and don't drive drunk anymore," said McCulloch. "We'd like to see that money come back in the system, because we would consider those people higher frequency or more likely users, than the average person."

Lawmakers are discussing a bill which would give direct funding for transporting Medicaid patients. Right now, EMS is getting reimbursed by the state for these transports. This bill would give 30-million dollars back to Iowa e-m-s budgets. 

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