Iowa EMS: Volunteerism

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(ABC 6 News) – In the second part of our ABC 6 News Special series, we are now focusing on the challenges faced by rural EMS departments in Iowa.

In small communities volunteers, they make the world go round and they run our rural EMS departments.

“It’s tough to find people that have the time to dedicate,” said Dale Rayhone, Paramedic supervisor with the City of Forest City and Forest City Ambulance.

“These people are doing it out of the kindness of their heart to volunteer their time and give up their time away from families to come help the community,” said Jennifer Vaske a Paramedic at West Hancock Ambulance Service.

However, in recent years, it has become increasingly difficult to recruit and retain volunteers and that’s posing a threat to the people living in north Iowa.

“Volunteerism is slowly dying and it’s really sad because all the rural communities that’s the only things that’s keeping those ambulance services going is the dedicated volunteers,” Rayhone said.

“There’s lots of small town communities that aren’t even able to provide an ambulance service anymore because they simply just ran out of volunteers they don’t have enough coverage to help support their town which is really scary you know when these small towns are shutting down how long before an ambulance will get to you,” Vaske said.

The coronavirus pandemic only made their situation worse with many older and more vulnerable volunteers have decided not to put themselves at risk and some employers are even prohibiting their employees from taking a call. That lead to the impact of running on a shorter staffed crew.

“With increased costs and trying to retain talent and recruit people to do this job it’s becoming increasingly harder and i think counties especially with rural populations are going to need that extra help to keep their services open,” said Mark Sachen, President Iowa EMS Association.

EMT departments in north Iowa say one solution is to get funding to offer EMT and paramedics livable wages to help attract people to the positions or another solution is to continue recruiting programs at the high school level to generate interest at a younger age.

Overall, they say that even though the goal is to get more support departments also want people to do the right thing.

“Knowing the people that you helped makes in my mind makes a big difference you know not that you get the recognition from them a pat on the back but you see them out in the community and you know in the back of your mind you helped them out in their time of need so yeah people have to understand that sometimes is worth more than any dollar amount that you can put on it,” Rayhone said

Follow the links if you are interested in volunteering with West Hancock or Forest City or reach out in your community.