Round table held in Austin to discuss rural EMS issues

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(ABC 6 News) – EMS services throughout rural Minnesota have become increasingly hard to rely on.

Health care providers and state legislatures want to stop the bleeding in the industry before more rural communities sell off their EMS vehicles. And there’s a large amount of younger people leaving the EMS workforce.

According to Minnesota’s Emergency Medical Services Board, 65% of EMS workers not renewing their licenses or leaving the profession are 40 or younger. 39% of people who have left the paramedic profession across the state have said it’s been do to low pay according to the EMS board.

Organizations such as Minnesota’s EMS Board are searching for ways to get more funding and keep workers in the profession.

“We’re still getting the job done and we’re still doing great work out there, but if we don’t take action on the workforce or funding issues we’re having in the sate. It’s going to get worse,” said Michael Juntunen, MAA President-Elect, Coordinator for Community Paramedicine.

Rural communities in the sate are losing out on EMS volunteers and services more and more each year. One of them is Hayfield. EMS services there have a staff size that dwindled from the high 20s before 2020 and now only 16 people. They also need $150,000 to repair their EMS’s broken equipment.

That’s why the Minnesota Ambulance Association and Center for Rural Policy and Development has made an effort to continue their annual roundtables to get the message out.

“I think the number one thing people can do is make their decision makers aware of this issue because most people aren’t,” said Julie Tesch, President and CEO of Center for Rural Policy and Development.

“One of the things we need to work on right now is getting staff and funding. How do we get people to staff and come in and work these ambulances,” added Juntunen.

These talks get information out to elected officials and the public but there is still the struggle of knowing where to start the process of getting more state and federal funds into rural EMS services.

Until then, some rural communities will have to rely on helping each other if the closest EMS service is unavailable or understaffed.

“I would say people need to be thoughtful in their thinking and thinking ahead so you don’t have the crisis and so being able to think of when you call 9-1-1, knowing who’s going to come and get you. Is it Mayo, is it Allina, is it a volunteer organization. It’s knowing those things and advocating for the support,” said Tesch.

Staff members from Senator Tina Smith’s and Congressman Brad Finstad’s were at the discussion. They say they will be bringing this issue to their attention before Congress returns from its summer recess.