EMS shortage in rural areasRural areas of Wisconsin often depend on local, medically-trained volunteers to tend to the injured before an ambulance arrives. That kind of help is getting harder to find.
By: By Steve Roisum/Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
Rural areas of Wisconsin often depend on local, medically-trained volunteers to tend to the injured before an ambulance arrives. That kind of help is getting harder to find.
The UW School of Medicine and Public Health says there are around 18,000 emergency medical services personnel in Wisconsin. That includes trained volunteers who help stabilize a patient until the ambulance arrives, or rides along with the ambulance. The number willing to do their work for free is going down, says John Eich of the Wisconsin Office of Rural Health. He says “as times get tighter, more recently in the recession, people can’t afford to jeopardize their job because they keep leaving their job to go on a call. If they have extra time to do a second job, they might want to do that for money.”
The UW School of Medicine and Public Health also says there are about 300 first responder organizations in the state, these are neighbors and community members who help victims until an ambulance arrives. But, some of those groups are folding. At least two have in Monroe County. Sparta area ambulance owner Bob Hess says it’s hard to bring in new talent. He says “young people may not work in the community they live, they may commute, and just simply logistics are getting harder.”
Hess says most of the first responder organizations that he knows of don’t consist of many young people, Instead members have been around for 20 or 30 years.