CLARION — Officials in Wright County have taken the first step to change how emergency medical services are funded.
The Wright County Board of Supervisors recently passed a resolution declaring EMS an essential service.
Citizens of Wright County will ultimately vote on whether to fund EMS in the county, according to Supervisor Karl Helgevold.
“This was just the first step,” Helgevold said. “The citizens of Wright County will all vote. They can say yes we do need ambulance as an essential service and it will have its own tax levy for ambulance services.”
According to Helgevold, voters will have the opportunity to approve funding for EMS that will come in the way of an income surtax and a property tax levy.
A timeline on when voting will take place is not yet known.
According to Iowa Code, EMS is not considered an essential service. Police and fire protection are considered essential.
EMS is funded by the general fund of each city, according to Helgevold.
“The ambulance service is losing money the way it is and it’s really best to run it if it had its own taxing authority, its own management,” he said. “It would streamline and provide more coverage and care for everyone in the county. Eagle Grove would still have an ambulance service. Clarion would still have an ambulance service. All of that would stay the same.”
Ambulance services in Wright County log about 1,100 calls per year, according to Jim Lester, Wright County emergency management coordinator.
More than 800 of those calls are placed through 911.
According to Lester, EMS volunteers are limited.
In late 2015, the ambulance services reported a total of 88 EMS providers including drivers, EMTs, Advanced EMTs, paramedics and nurse-exception providers serving Wright County.
“Keep in mind, those are the numbers that are listed on the service rosters,” Lester said. “Where in reality, a service may have a 25-person roster, but only half or less are consistently available to cover the 24/7/365 shifts it takes to operate the service. The minimum staffing for each ambulance would be two persons.”
The hope is that towns can pool together some of their resources, while maintaining their own independent service, according to Helgevold.
“If we had one organization that did all of the training, all of the scheduling, but all the cities will still be involved,” Helgevold said. “Yet you would have a larger group or larger pool of resources to come to. Instead of each town…