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Elmore Ambulance Service ceases operation

By Staff | Jun 8, 2009

After more than 40 years of service, the Elmore Ambulance stopped operating on June 1.

Dwindling crew member numbers contributed to the demise of the service and that has the United Hospital District board concerned.

Board member Brenda Baldwin says Elmore has struggled for years to keep its ambulance going.

“It has been a real struggle for them to recruit and maintain volunteers,” she says.

Ten years ago, Elmore’s crew was down to three. Other area cities also have experienced a drop in membership.

Some ambulance departments, like Winnebago’s, have placed ads and radio commercials in an effort to sign up people.

Clara Vereide has served on the Elmore Ambulance for the past six years and says it’s tough to see the service end.

“We’ve put in a lot of time and you hate to see it go by the wayside,” she says. “Because we live in a small community, we are helping people we know.”

Board member Larry Anderson says the problem is serious and the long-term future of emergency medical services in the county must be addressed.

“It’s so vital. It is a huge threat to health care and this hospital,” Anderson says. “We have to make sure that these services continue.”

Baldwin agrees with Anderson, saying that because of television the public expects to have emergency medical services delivered to their doorstep.

Currently, there are eight ambulance services and three first responder units in the county.

“We need to keep things in place so we don’t lose our coverage. Faribault County has been at the top of the line as far as our ambulance crews,” Baldwin says.

Board member Douglas Johanson recommended that the hospital district invite ambulance crews to its quarterly meeting to discuss any issues.

Declining population and loss of industries could force other small ambulance departments to shut down, says Baldwin.

Also, she says a federal requirement increasing the amount of training for EMTs could hurt ambulance departments that rely solely on volunteers.

Currently, 110 hours of training are required, but that could be increased to between 150 and 190 hours.

“When you start asking people to put that kind of time in, it becomes a real commitment,” Baldwin says.

Hospital administrator Jeff Lang says for the past three years UHD’s ambulance has handled day calls for Elmore.

Vereide says UHD provided service from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, while Elmore crew members were on call the other times.

UHD’s ambulance and Frost Ambulance will serve areas covered by Elmore.