‘Vast majority’ of Iowa EMTs unpaid as ambulance services close

Published: Mar. 24, 2022 at 5:29 PM CDT
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ORANGE CITY, Iowa (KTIV) - Officials say the “vast majority” of EMTs in Iowa are unpaid, and that’s one of the reasons that’s led to the shuttering of small departments. Meaning there are longer wait times for patients.

Orange City Area Health EMS supervisor Cedrick Franken says small towns, like Archer and Matlock, lost their ambulance service in recent memory. Other agencies like Sanborn have had to absorb that territory, stretching them further.

But as we previously reported, Sanborn is already down to just one EMT. Franken says it’s a tough time to be in the industry.

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years. Every year, it seems to get harder and harder and harder for those small towns to manage and maintain it. We’re seeing an aged population. How do we engage some of the younger people that want to do this?” said Franken.

Orange City Area Health is actually a pretty well-off service. Because they’re attached to a hospital, the agency can absorb costs. The same can’t be said for Sanborn, which runs on a volunteer basis.

“We currently have one driver, who’s actually my husband who drives.. when he can. But then again, yeah, I’m an EMT here now. So looking for anything EMRs, paramedics, EMT drivers, anything that comes our way, we’ll gladly take it,” said Kaitlin Kribell.

So what’s the solution? Franken says smaller agencies have started forming co-ops with larger agencies. One model calls for ambulance services to be handled by the county, much like the police force.

Either way, Franken says many smaller agencies are merely maintaining right now, not thriving, Still, he remains positive.

“If you want to go do something that is going to impact somebody’s life forever. By all means, this is a huge career,” said Franken.

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