As the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold, Iowa’s first responders say the state should no longer hold off on declaring Emergency Medical Services an essential service.
That status is something EMS workers in Iowa have sought long before COVID-19. Being declared “essential” would require ambulance service across the state, instead of relying on a patchwork of volunteers, agencies and providers.
Mark McCulloch, deputy chief of EMS for West Des Moines Emergency Medical Services, says he thinks the current crisis will prompt those who have resisted such a move to reconsider.
McCulloch says the lack of guaranteed emergency medical services is especially a problem in rural parts of Iowa, where younger adults are moving away and reducing volunteer ranks.
Having the state approve a plan to guarantee emergency medical services would open the door to funding for EMS in these communities. But some tax revenue would also be needed, a move that some lawmakers oppose.
Stacy Frelund, government relations director for the American Heart Association of Iowa, says even though the state’s budget has been battered by the economic downturn, that doesn’t mean this funding should fall into a political debate.
And beyond the current crisis, Frelund says rural areas need a stronger network of ambulance service for heart attacks and stroke-related calls.
Just before the pandemic, various bills were being considered in the Iowa House. Their supporters hope they see a revival as lawmakers take a long look at the state budget when they reconvene in early June.