Volunteer EMS agencies struggle to find volunteers - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Volunteer EMS agencies struggle to find volunteers

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EMS departments across Iowa are in crisis mode. 

Without enough money or volunteers, EMS agencies in Iowa say they're struggling to get by. Just earlier this month, EMS groups went to the state capitol asking for EMS to be considered an essential service, which would provide them with a revenue stream. However, funding is only half the problem.

The challenge also lies in recruitment. 

It's not an easy commitment. Most volunteers pay for their own education, donate their time, all while working 9 to 5 jobs. Once they're certified, they're expected to drop everything when a call comes in. 

Departments across the state, including Tripoli EMS, have expressed their urgent need for volunteers. 

A 22-year-old Eastern Iowa full-time student is heeding that call for help. 

In between classes at the University of Northern Iowa, senior Courtney Anderson is juggling a tight schedule. She works part-time at Kwik Star, coaches the Tripoli girls Crossfire Volleyball team, all-while training to become an EMT volunteer.

"There's been numerous calls where everyone is busy," said Anderson. "People are out of town. And there's been calls where we've had to call Denver or Waverly to take them because we don't have the staff."

Anderson got her start her senior year of high school through a program which allowed her to shadow Tripoli EMS volunteers. Now, she's taking EMT courses, learning the ropes and going on calls. She's been taking an EMT training course two nights a week and will be taking her final next Friday.

But Courtney's mom, Tracy Anderson, says her daughters story to becoming a volunteer started long before. 

"Just before she was two years old we had a situation where she was choking on something," said Anderson. "And so I had to call 911 for her. I remember how scared I was and how frightened I was and how quickly her skin color started changing to blue.

When Tracy called 911, someone was there.

"When I ran down our back steps, Randy Pfile was at the bottom of the steps," said Anderson.  "And he was apart of the ambulance crew at the time. And I will never forget how relieved I was-that he was there to help me Just knowing that there someone else who was there who knew what they were doing who could help me-so quickly."

That help that day is part of the reason why Tracy became a volunteer in her 40's.  

"Took me a while....I was 45 when I took the EMT class, but I don't want someone to make that 911 call and not have someone on the other end of that line to be there for them and help them," said Anderson. 

Tracy says every time the Tripoli ambulance goes on a call, they're losing money because they're not getting fully reimbursed from insurance companies. For departments like Tripoli, paying people to work as an EMT would financially not be an feasible option.

The President of Iowa's EMS Association Mark McCulloch says legislators are in support, but they're struggling to agree on a sustainable source of revenue that works for the entire state. 

More stories on Iowa's EMS crisis: 

Rural EMS departments struggle to provide care

Family wants change to rural ambulance service

Rural EMS departments look for solution

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