State lawmakers have launched a comprehensive review of emergency medical services across the state as providers call for lawmakers to require every community to have the service the same way there are now required to provide fire and police protection. Jerry Ewers, president of the Iowa Emergency Medical Services Association, told a legislative committee that in one third of the state, the services aren’t staffed during the day.
“Would you like to be the person who calls 9-1-1 when your parents are having a heart attack. And they’re like ‘sorry this is not an essential service, we don’t have anybody available’?,” Ewers asked. Emergency response times varying widely between city and rural areas, and Ewers says that’s because many of the volunteers are at their day jobs. “They’re working their full time job during the day and sometimes it’s far ways from their community,” Ewers says. Lawmakers are looking into whether certification and training of emergency personnel are adequate, or so restrictive that it’s hard for volunteers to qualify.
Representative Todd Prichard, a Democrat from Charles City, says it’s a rural development issue. “You look at the response times that these providers are able to make and in some parts of the state it’s probably not acceptable,” Prichard says. State Senator Mike Breitbach, a Republican from Strawberry Point, worked with an ambulance service for 22 years. “And we see the same problems I think that a lot of our rural areas are seeing as far as recruitment, retention, and having enough people available to go on calls,” Breitbach says.
Providers will ask lawmakers to restore budget cuts at the state’s Emergency Services Bureau which they say have made it harder for volunteers out in the field to get the help they need. They also want a bigger income tax credit for volunteers to defray some of the cost of their training.