Local EMS staff pushing for House Bill to make service “essential”

Published: Mar. 3, 2021 at 6:10 PM CST
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TRIPOLI, Iowa (KCRG) - In the state of Iowa, if a person needs police or fire protection, those agencies are required to respond. However, that’s not the case if you need an ambulance.

That’s because emergency medical services or EMS are not considered essential, and Tripoli’s EMS Director says because of that, the industry in is a state of crisis.

“In Tripoli, we do about 175 calls a year,” said Tripoli EMS Director, Kip Ladage.

That’s a substantial number for the department of at most 6 people responding to calls.

“When you think about that, most of those calls involve transport. How many people can step away from their job for three hours?,” said Ladage.

Ladage says with volunteer shortages, a lack of funding, and inadequate reimbursements, agencies statewide are closing, resulting in longer wait times, especially in rural counties.

“If it’s a Medicare, Medicaid-type patient, we’re gonna lose money as soon as we open the door. If the charge for us is $650 and if the reimbursement source is Medicaid, we’re lucky to collect $114.30,” he said.

However, House Bill HF562 would formally declare EMS an essential service, and establish a way for counties and cities to raise money for EMC through taxes.

“Not every community that has an ambulance is going to be able to retain an ambulance due to lack of staffing. We’re gonna have to combine resources and share with our neighboring communities so that’s kind of what the importance of this bill,” said Jim Schutte, President for the Bremer County EMS Association.

The bill passed the Iowa House, but the future is uncertain in the Senate. Senator Eric Giddens from Cedar Falls believes it will pass.

“It could be a matter of life and death and I think it’s long overdue,” said Giddens.

For Ladage, he knows firsthand just how critical these services are.

“I lived this with a family member. I was doing CPR, and there was no ambulance around for a long time. He’s no longer with us. I couldn’t save him by myself,” said Ladage.

Ladage is urging people to reach out to their elected senators to help push the bill through.

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