- Associated Press - Saturday, October 14, 2017

WAVERLY, Iowa (AP) - Two northeast Iowa men are raising awareness about a critical shortage of emergency medical technicians in rural areas of the state and calling for changes in law so ambulance service is deemed essential.

Bremer County’s Emergency Management Coordinator Kip Ladage and the EMS association’s president Jim Schutte spoke about the state’s EMS crisis at a Waverly town hall meeting on Oct. 11, The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported .

Ladage said small-town agencies are struggling for volunteers, especially as many members reach retirement age. After receiving their training and certification, volunteers must continue to complete ongoing training and be available for emergency calls.

“It’s all a big commitment,” Ladage said. “The number of people volunteering is critically low.”

He said the shortage means area medics sometimes aren’t available to respond to calls. Calls then get deferred to another community, which increases response time.

“Where you live shouldn’t determine if you live,” Ladage said.

While fire protection is considered an essential service in the state, ambulance service doesn’t have the same designation.

Ladage encouraged residents to ask their lawmakers to ensure ambulance coverage and create a funding plan for the service. Rural departments typically cover the cost of training, which can range from about $2,500 for an emergency medical technician to $10,000 for a full paramedic.

Residents discussed funding EMS services through sales or property taxes to help address the issue.

“If we have equitable, sustainable funding, that will help to make this system work,” Ladage said. “And that’s the only thing that will keep this system afloat, especially if we eventually have to start hiring staff to cover these places where we don’t have people there anymore.”

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Information from: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, https://www.wcfcourier.com

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