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Shared EMS highlights the demand for ambulances in rural Neb.

Waverly Fire Rescue signed a second EMS contract and is working on ALS accreditation to meet the increasing call volume

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By Margaret Reist
Lincoln Journal Star

WAVERLY, Neb. — A decision by Waverly Fire and Rescue to contract with another rural fire department for advanced life support services signals a trend away from Lincoln Fire and Rescue providing ambulance services to rural fire districts.

The shift is happening largely because of the growing demand for fire and medical services in the Capital City, and because of the greater demand in some small towns such as Waverly.

Waverly recently signed a contract with Southeast Rural Fire Department to provide advanced life support services — medical services for serious injuries or cardiac arrest.

It still has a contract with Lincoln Fire and Rescue but will rely more on Southeast Rural for calls that require paramedics to administer certain medications or procedures that aren’t life-threatening.

That had already been happening, said Waverly Fire Chief Jared Rains, but now Southeast Rural will be compensated adequately for it, though it still won’t charge Waverly for those advanced life support services if they aren’t needed, as Lincoln did.

“It’s about compensating their department for the services we use,” he said.

In some life-threatening situations, Rains said, they’ll still call on Lincoln units, but Lincoln officials didn’t want to be responding to calls when they weren’t needed.

Lincoln Fire and Rescue changed the terms of its contract to require Waverly units to be on scene to assess the situation before calling Lincoln, and increased the cost about $28, to $581.50.

“We still have an agreement to respond when they call us, (but) it just didn’t make good sense for us to have our medic units out on basic life support (calls) when we have needs in the city,” said Lincoln Fire Chief Dave Engler.

Other small towns in the county rely on Lincoln when they have serious medical emergencies, though over the past year or so many of those towns have purchased their own ambulances so they can respond to basic medical calls, said Jeremy Quist, assistant chief for Southeast Rural Fire.

Malcolm, Hickman and Firth all have their own ambulances, he said, and Bennett just bought one.

“It’s getting to the point now where call volume is high enough, for even the smaller departments, you almost have to have an ambulance now,” Rains said.

That allows those departments to respond to many medical calls, though they still rely on Lincoln for serious medical calls that require paramedics with more advanced training.

“Lincoln doesn’t want to be automatically dispatched to cover someone else’s district,” Quist said. “They’ll never refuse to come help. They just don’t want to be the only ambulance party.”

When LFR responds to a call outside the city, it typically takes longer because of the travel time involved. Lincoln has seven fully staffed ambulances that run at peak hours during the weekdays.

Waverly has also had its own ambulance for years, Rains said, and is in the process of getting people trained as paramedics and acquiring the necessary accreditation so they can provide those services themselves. At some point, he said, he’ll need to buy another ambulance to cover the increased demand in Waverly.

Rains said the change — along with smaller cities getting their own ambulances — is a reflection of the demands LFR faces in its own city.

“It’s not that they didn’t want to help us, but they have their own city to cover and provide resources to their taxpayers,” he said.

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