O'Brien County's Bell-Times-Courier -

EMS Future View


March 14, 2019

O’Brien County Emergency Medical Technicians are local heroes. There are a valuable few willing to make the commitment to the educational and continuing education requirements to get and keep licensure. These few are those who are called out without warning in the middle of the night, during a snowstorm or a workday. Their mission is to keep a person alive and transport them to a hospital.

Communities in O’Brien County have reached a critical stage in their abilities to retain those willing volunteers. Primghar resorted to creating a paid, fulltime position to assure personnel to respond to medical emergency needs during the daytime hours. The Primghar ambulance has covered other area communities during difficult staffing time, including sanborn, Paullina and archer. It wasn’t much longer that Paullina was forced into the same staffing decision. More recently, archer lost the last of its volunteers.

The mutual aid agreements established years ago to provide assistance met with resistance from at least one Sheldon City Council person, Brad Hindt. A series of meetings between officials and public meetings with councils were held in an effort to reach an amicable solution to cost and coverage for (most) of the residents within the city limits of archer.

But the uproar brought to light a need to readdress the 911 responses and more importantly the lack of volunteers.

O’Brien County EMA Director Jared Johnson set to work developing, with the blessing of the Board of Supervisors, a series of meetings designed to fulfill the residents’ expectations that emergency medical help is available to all of its citizens 24/7. It is not an easy undertaking. One of the first conversations had is the mapping of responses; which ambulance service is designated to respond to which addresses. The emphasis was on the area within the area once covered by the now defunct archer Ambulance. Some minor adjustments were recommended and made to that response map, putting some areas of response within the responsibility of a closer service. Summit Dairy and the area east toward Primghar were moved from sanborn response to Primghar’s. No other major map changes have been made so far.

New dispatch software makes changes of this nature a bit more involved. It requires some reprogramming to get the right service out to its correct addresses, so officials consider long before making map changes to the response maps.

Advancing the cause of pro-active, a meeting was held Thursday March 7 involving representatives of the county’s 2 hospitals, city and county elected officials and ambulance service representatives.

Each contingency was invited to share their views of the present challenge to their respective organization. Financing was discussed. Education requirements were discussed, as were delivery methods. Procedures were discussed with some changes announced in response to some of the limitations ambulance services have expressed. Keeping a rig out of service to a community by either waiting for release or transfer was one of the main procedural concerns addressed.

Ambulance transfer services and methods were discussed with some support to readdress concerns with Midwest Ambulance to provide that service.

Staffing was discussed at length in conjunction with education access and requirements as barriers to increasing the number of capable volunteers. Ultimately, there was a full consensus that the biggest concern facing Emergency Medical response in O’Brien County is a sufficient number of licensed volunteers.

Some ideas to meet the demand included some legislative concerns that might be addressed at the state level and levy action and inclusion of EMS as an essential service.

Some barriers to volunteers are employers’ willingness to allow an employees’ absence to answer a call and the time commitment to obtain the initial license. There is also some differences in scope of care in different locations within O’Brien County. Medical procedures that any particular EMT can provide are determined first by the license, EMT or paramedic, and then by the medical director for any particular service. O’Brien County ambulance services are covered by three different medical directors.

No action was taken. The next meeting will be held Thursday April 18 at 6:30 at the Primghar EMS Building.


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