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Rural Ambulance Crews Have Run Out of Money and Volunteers

30 Apr 2021 9:28 AM | AIMHI Admin (Administrator)

NYT Source Article | Comments Courtesy of Matt Zavadsky

A GREAT, but troubling article in the NYT about the plight of rural EMS agencies.  Excellent reporting and insight!

This is why organizations like NAEMT, the American Ambulance Association, the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the International Association of Fire Fighters, are working together on federal initiatives to help fund rural EMS systems, such as the SIREN Act and reimbursement for Treatment in Place (TIP).

If you are not part of these efforts, consider lending your support!

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Rural Ambulance Crews Have Run Out of Money and Volunteers

Strained by pandemic-era budget cuts, stress and a lack of revenue, at least 10 ambulance companies in Wyoming are in danger of shuttering — some imminently.

By Ali Watkins

April 29, 2021

WORLAND, Wyo. — For three years, Luke Sypherd has run the small volunteer ambulance crew that services Washakie County, Wyo., caring for the county’s 7,800 residents and, when necessary, transporting them 162 miles north to the nearest major trauma center, in Billings, Mont.

In May, though, the volunteer Washakie County Ambulance Service will be no more.

“It’s just steadily going downhill,” Mr. Sypherd said. The work is hard, demanding and almost entirely volunteer-based, and the meager revenue from bringing patients in small cities like Worland to medical centers was steeply eroded during much of 2020 when all but the sickest coronavirus patients avoided hospitals.

Washakie County’s conundrum is reflective of a troubling trend in Wyoming and states like it: The ambulance crews that service much of rural America have run out of money and volunteers, a crisis exacerbated by the demands of the pandemic and a neglected, patchwork 911 system. The problem transcends geography: In rural, upstate New York, crews are struggling to pay bills. In Wisconsin, older volunteers are retiring, and no one is taking their place.

The situation is particularly acute in Wyoming, where nearly half of the population lives in territory so empty it is still considered the frontier. At least 10 localities in the state are in danger of losing ambulance service, some imminently, according to an analysis reviewed by The New York Times.

Many of the disappearing ambulances are staffed by volunteers, and some are for-profit ambulance providers that say they are losing money. Still others are local contractors hired by municipalities that, strained by the budget crisis of the pandemic, can no longer afford to pay them. Thousands of Wyoming residents could soon be in a position where there is no one nearby to answer a call for help.

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