Minn. EMS task force begins work on community feedback
Task force members discussed funding, salaries, regulations and community paramedicine
By James Allen
Fergus Falls Daily Journal
ELBOW LAKE, Minn. — The issue of emergency services and how they can be better in rural Minnesota took center stage in Elbow Lake on Jan. 9, when Rep. Jeff Backer (R- Browns Valley ) and Sen. Jordan Rasmusson (R- Fergus Falls ) hosted an EMS Task Force Field Hearing to get feedback and ideas on how to ensure rural communities have access to vital EMS resources for getting the care they need.
In November 2023, Backer and Rasmusson were appointed to serve on the Emergency Medical Services (EMS). This task force held a field hearing at the Grant County Social Services Building.
Rasmusson said one of the big issues facing rural EMS services are reimbursement rates and are a real challenge.
“In the the Twin Cities, they do OK because they have more call volume, their ambulances are busier given the population density they have. However, in Greater Minnesota, we still need to have those ambulances ready to go but we often don’t have as many calls,” explained Rasmusson.
Currently ambulance services statewide are paid by the call.
Rasmusson said other topics included looking at the regulatory side with more flexibility for healthcare professionals, enabling them to get into emergency medical services easier.
“For example, right now there were ideas brought forward on allowing registered nurses to be able to work as paramedics in ambulances. That’s one idea I’m very interested in looking at,” said Rasmusson.
Another topic brought up was the Community Paramedic Program.
“This allows for paramedics to work for emergency medical service providers and also fulfilling other roles in the community, such doing home health visits in their respective counties, or other types of public health outreach to help spread out the cost of readiness onto different services,” added Rasmusson.
Other members of the task force from around the state were also on hand to hear from constituents and others on ways that life-saving services could be enhanced by EMS personnel from area providers.
Backer has an extensive background as a volunteer EMT for the Browns Valley Ambulance service since 1995, with his identical twin brother, Jay.
“I would like to offer my thanks and appreciation to the dedicated professionals that took time to visit with us, share their stories and suggestions and discuss ways we can improve EMS services in our region,” said Backer. “As someone who has served as a volunteer EMT for almost 30 years, I understand the unique challenges facing emergency services in our area and am committed to continue our important work with local and regional stakeholders to improve services for all of our communities.”
From mayors to health care professionals, the task force heard from a number of testifiers on how to ensure rural communities have access to vital EMS resources. This meeting served as a listening session to gather public input from western Minnesota. Subsequent hearings will take place in other regions of the state before session begins.
Rasmusson said the overall response to the meeting was positive and around 50-60 people were in attendance, including some Otter Tail County Commissioners, Fergus Falls Fire Chief Ryan Muchow and Otter Tail County Sheriff Barry Fitzgibbons.
“We had a great turnout at this event, demonstrating just how important this topic is to the people we represent. We received a lot of helpful insights from the testifiers, and we will take the ideas we heard to shape our work this session. As we look to improve access to these life-saving resources, we need to find a solution that works for rural communities, not just the Metro.”
According to Rasmusson’s office, the task force consists of a bipartisan group of legislators, five from the House of Representatives and five from the Senate, which aims to find ways to improve the life-saving services provided by EMS personnel in Minnesota communities.
More information about the task force meeting documents are available online at lcc.mn.gov/ems/meetings.html.
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