Repeating the call: NOW IS THE TIME to mandate Emergency Medical Services in Iowa
January 1, 2018


-On Feb. 3, 2017, The News-Herald was awarded third place for Community Service in the 2017 Iowa Newspaper Association Contest Weekly II Division for efforts to aid in ambulance member recruitment.

A News-Herald editorial at the time asked: Time to mandate Emergency Medical Services in Iowa?

Today here is an update and repeat of that message for Iowa Legislators:

Since the November, 2016, General Election, it's been said: the rural areas have spoken - the heartland has felt left out - the cities and big counties have dictated too much policy.

This year we have read calls for action on mandated ambulance service.

Sandy Heick, a 35-year veteran paramedic in West Branch called for mandated ambulance service in a West Branch Times editorial In a medical emergency, WHERE you live may determine IF you live in August. -

Marshalltown Times-Republican staff member Adam Sodders reported in September Marshall County Emergency Medical Services Association President Steve Vannatta wants to see emergency medical services designated essential services -

Now is the time to MAKE SURE in Iowa the Legislators in Des Moines listen to and hear this message from all areas-

It's time for them - the lawmakers - to get together with their local ambulance provider and first responders service personnel.

It's time to meet with the Bureau of Emergency and Trauma Services of the Iowa Department of Health (BETS).

It's time to for the Iowa Emergency Medical Services Association to be joined in the discussion.

Ambulance service in Iowa should be required just like fire protection.

Here's the issue heard more strongly in Tama County as time goes by: personnel to staff the rural ambulances and first responders is, and continues to shrink.

Is it at a critical stage? That assessment is up to the volunteers who devote their many hours of dedicated service.

As reported in early 2017, there were more than 85 persons certified in Tama County to provide Emergency Medical Service according to BETS. This includes emergency medical technicians, advanced EMTS and paramedics. They are listed with services in Tama - 18; Toledo - 20; Montour- 4; Elberon- 5; Garwin- 3; Traer- 15; Gladbrook- 19; Dysart- 11; and first responders at Clutier. Additionally, the services providing transport have drivers. (The number can fluctuate due to new or loss of members and some may be licensed outside of the county because of the actual location of their home.)

Concern is voiced due to the age of some of the volunteers who will be retiring and the time required for the volunteers to staff the ambulances 24-hours-a-day, seven -days-a-week.

Now, more and more it seems, there are times when one service is relying upon another service because they cannot get a crew together for a run.

It does not take much to make a case someone in need of medical care west of Clutier or south of Tama deserves the same response, within reason, of someone on the steps of the capitol in Des Moines.

It is simply vital the emergency medical services are maintained in rural Iowa.

Since taking over in Tama County for the funeral homes "station wagon ambulances" in 1972, the local volunteer services have grown and done a most remarkable job of providing dependable and highly regarded care and service.

But some 45 years later, could it be time for the State of Iowa to provide a better backbone of support?

As stated to be made clear in the beginning: the local persons on the day-to-day emergency runs have the pulse of the matter.

A cohesive effort putting them in the forefront in conjunction with BETS and the EMS Association acting with the Iowa Legislature can determine if mandated service is appropriate.

And, what comes with required service what will make some legislators howl: the money.

Tama County's ambulances operate primarily upon claims paid for service, donations, some city support and a lot of work by volunteers.

Let's now look toward the state-licensed casinos if mandated service is the decision.

Too long have cities and counties with gambling licenses (it's up to 19 casinos) been rewarded the benefits of employment, local taxes, tourist money and generous charitable donations. While the 84 other counties received $11.9 million in 2015-16 for the County Endowment Program, those 15 counties with casinos had a whopping $84 million in grants distributed - that on top of the employment, tourist dollars and local taxes paid.

The time has come for the Iowa Legislature to change the way the casino money flows to a more equitable way and what's more fair of a start than to boost medical services across Iowa?

The casinos, by their own words, "stimulated economic development - generated more that $6 billion in tax revenues since 1991."

If the gambling industry and the areas chosen to benefit cannot aid the rest of the state then there is true hokum in the whole granting of gambling licenses.

-J. Speer


Regular Size Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald