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Minn. ambulance director calls for more rural EMS funding

Lake Crystal Area Ambulance Service Director Rhonda Ingebritson said EMS needs to be recognized as an essential service


A Lake Crystal Area ambulance.

Lake Crystal Area Ambulance/Facebook

By Holly Marie Moore
The Free Press

LAKE CRYSTAL, Minn. — Amid a statewide demand for more emergency medical services funding and staffing, new short-term state funding signed by Gov. Tim Walz late last month aims to cushion the blow for rural services.

The package includes $30 million for rural EMS, with $6 million for the establishment of an alternative EMS response model pilot program and $24 million in short-term emergency aid.

The bill also establishes an Office of Emergency Medical Services to replace the Emergency Medical Services Regulatory Board.

It’s meant to be a temporary fix while services across the state wait for sustainable funding.

Lake Crystal Area Ambulance Service Director Rhonda Ingebritson said it’s a start, but more needs to be done.

“Right now, we run so many calls. When I started, it was about 200 calls, and now we’re running anywhere from 400 to 700 calls a year just depending on call volume,” she said.

$6 million from the package will be used for a sprint medic pilot program in three counties

“We are in lieu to do another 500 calls this year. When I say calls, that means all forms. That means response. That means cancellations. Anytime our pager goes off, we consider that a call.”

With Ingebritson being the only full-time emergency medical technician, she said for their service to be self-sustainable without relying on taxpayers, they could use the funding soon.

“For us, being that we do run that 500 to 700 calls a year, we don’t make enough income by pulling in what we serve in order to purchase another ambulance, to house another ambulance, to have additional staffing,” she said.

Part of that is due to a lack of reimbursement for Medicare.

“Typically, if we send out an $800 bill, we maybe see $200-$250 of it,” Ingebritson said.

She also said EMS needs to be recognized as an essential service.

“With that additional funding, it will help kind of, I don’t want to say Band-Aid, but it’s going to help cushion us a little bit so we can start rebuilding our funds to purchase that much-needed equipment.”

“I think until we are recognized as an essential service, it will always be a hindrance for every ambulance service provider out there.”

DFL Rep. Jeff Brand, of St. Peter, also said EMS needs to be an essential service.

“That is something that in statute it’s not dedicated to be right now, but we need to make it an essential service like law enforcement, like fire,” he said.

Brand also spoke on the benefits of the new office, adding that if lawmakers are to provide long-term money, they need to have accountability.

“The new office is going to provide those guardrails. We’re going to know in a more timely fashion what’s going on and that board’s going to be helping people on the ground a lot better with resources for the needs that they have,” he said.

Ingebritson said she doesn’t know how much of the new funding Lake Crystal will get yet.

Rural services will have to fill out an application, which isn’t due until September.

She also said another potential help could be that while there’s a lot of education out there to encourage students to become paramedics, EMTs and emergency medical responders are just as needed.

“It’s wonderful to have paramedics out in the field, but it’s equally as valuable to have an EMR and EMT,” she said.

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