By Steve Peterson
Plymouth County supervisors heard about staffing hurdles facing Emergency Medical Services (EMS) from Bill Rosacker, director of Le Mars EMS; Siouxland Paramedics Akron Director Terry Stecker and Kevin Rollins, director of Remsen EMS, and President of Plymouth County EMS Association, at their regular meeting Feb. 4.
The EMS officials described the dilemma of staffing for emergency calls during the day. One town, Oyens’ EMS calls are now covered by Le Mars EMS and the Merrill EMS, is assisted by Le Mars and Hinton.
“We coming in front of the board to describe where we are at this point with EMS. Right now we have had one community (Oyens) has turned over their EMS to Le Mars and Remsen and the main reason is staffing problems. They asked if we would be willing to take their district over and we said yes. They just do not have enough staff. We foresee this as a snowball effect, in the next five years, that other communities that are experiencing this, and others are having problems,” said Rollins.
“It’s not just a Plymouth County problem; it’s a national problem to try and get volunteers. There are other counties in our area that are looking to do something different. We’re just glad that Plymouth County is approaching it as a proactive, not a reactive situation. Our board has been working in numerous years for what we’re going to do when there is no one there to take care of us. A lot of us have been on board for 30 years. The last five years we have been encouraging people to get on board and to take the training. As you know volunteers are just not there anymore. I can tell you that there is no magic solution,” said Rollins.
“There is not a real good fix. We need more volunteers to take the training,” said Rollins.
“Having full-time staff would be a very expensive fix,” said Rosacker.
EMS officials described why people leave the service.
“People leave due to burn-out, the hours on call ties them down. The compensation is not the No. 1 problem,” said Rosacker.
Rollins said in Remsen there may be about 13 on staff of the volunteer EMS but only six or seven of them are active members.
Another factor is the cost involved of the training, said the EMS officials, and up to $10,000 for an advanced class, said Stecker.
Le Mars EMS had about 950 calls for EMS in 2013; Akron had about 160 and there were 178 calls in Remsen.
“The EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) class is $1,000 a head,” said Stecker. “And more for advanced training. We get $69 a call from the state’s reimbursement. It takes about a year of education before a volunteer can serve on calls, including “clinical” of observing and helping at area hospitals and “ride-a-longs.”
They would like to have the State Legislature declare the EMS a mandatory service so that it could receive more county tax funds. Supervisor Don Kass said the county may have to have a levy for EMS in the near future.
No action was taken but county officials encouraged their EMS counterparts to keep them updated.