Funding and staffing issues are impacting rural EMS

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(ABC 6 News) – Inflation and staffing shortages have impacted almost every industry, and that’s been the case for rural emergency services for nearly two decades.

“Our urgency has become an emergency,” said Dodge County Ambulance Director Angie Jarrett.

The 21-year EMS veteran says her department and others like hers haven’t received the financial help they need from the federal government.

Wednesday, local ambulance departments gather at Rochester Fire Station 2 for the ‘Future of Rural Ambulance and EMS’ roundtable.

“We are bringing them all together to come together to say what we want with this ambulance service. And they said it’s important to us and we see a lot of value in having an ambulance here,” said Jarrett.

Jarret says roughly 70 percent of the patients they see are on Medicare or Medicaid. Which are federally funded. That funding and return on the cost of services haven’t changed in two decades.

So, when those patients are billed, the EMS services are only receiving about 40 percent of the total cost Which is causing significant funding and financial issues that can only be changed by lawmakers.

“We need Medicare reimbursements to increase, we funding to pay our staff to continue to respond to calls, we need funding to replace outdated and broken equipment, that money has to come from somewhere and we’re not receiving it in reimbursement, said Jarrett.

Congressman Brad Finstad attended the discussion and said this issue goes well beyond politics. “When you’re in trouble and you dial 911 you just expect to have that help and the help comes from our neighbors and our friends and those at are volunteering,” said Finstad.

He added he’s going to look for any opportunity he can to make changes to EMS funding at the federal level.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s inflation calculator, since this time in 2002 inflation has gone up nearly 65 percent.

To put that in perspective the price of an ambulance in 1975 was around $5 thousand and today it can be as much as $300 thousand.