The Winnebago County Board of Supervisors met with county residents on Wednesday night at the NSB Bank Community Room to discuss a looming crisis in staffing of Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics.
Staffing has become a problem at the Lake Mills Ambulance Service and in Buffalo Center. Overall, the county will handle 3.5 emergency calls per day and with 4 EMT’s and Paramedics in Lake Mills, lesser in Buffalo Center, and a little more in Forest City, it can become problematic considering each has to run a shift during the 24-hour day. If more than the 3.5 calls are achieved, response times go down.
Volunteering for these shifts can be difficult for those who already have regular jobs. One of the EMT’s stated that her company has her use vacation time when responding to a call. Nights and weekends become a problem for others because they have to stay within four minutes of the ambulance center to possibly respond to a call. This means sacrificing time with family and friends.
Winnebago County Board Supervisor Terry Durby stated that staffing and recruiting are becoming very difficult.
The board posed three options to the community members in attendance. Increase funding to the program by initiating a property tax levy, initiating a wellness tax, or contracting out to an outside company.
Chapter 422D of the Iowa Code allows a county to generate a local option income tax or property tax which would max out at .75 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. For a $100,000 home, it would equate to around $42 in additional taxes per year. How that money would be used would be determined by an appointed Emergency Services Advisory Board. Durby told the crowd that its membership would be modeled after what other nearby counties have put on their boards.
The board declared county EMS programs as essential services which now clears the county to hold three public hearings. They will be on April 26th at 6pm, May 10th at 6pm and both will be at the NSB Bank Community Meeting Room. A third will be May 17th in the Supervisors Room of the Winnebago County Courthouse.
Durby felt that the meeting on Wednesday night went well but there is a lot of work to do.
The third meeting will allow the board to formally approve the need for an advisory council to be nominated and seated. They will advise the board on what needs to be done to potentially resolve the crisis.