Lack of volunteers pushes ND ambulance service to consider disbanding
Most of the current volunteer staff is over the age of 60 and the agency has not had any new volunteers sign up
By Keith Norman
The Jamestown Sun, N.D.
MEDINA, N.D. — Medina Ambulance Service is facing a tough decision regarding continuing its operations this fall.
"We don't want to close down," said Renae Olson, a paramedic with the service. "It's just become too difficult. People are getting burned out."
The issues facing Medina Ambulance Service are not financial but people related. The service has a regular volunteer staff of nine people along with four casual volunteers who are available to help if necessary but aren't normally on the schedule.
"Five of those (regular volunteer staff) people are waiting to retire and are over 60," Olson said. "One lady has over 36 years of experience."
No new volunteers have joined recently.
"We're thinking of shutting down because volunteers are hard to find," Olson said.
If Medina Ambulance Service shuts down, it would create a large area in western Stutsman and eastern Kidder counties with no readily accessible ambulance service, according to Jerry Bergquist, Stutsman County emergency manager and 911 coordinator.
Bergquist said North Dakota law requires dispatch centers such as the Stutsman County Communications Center to dispatch the ambulance service that can reach the person in need the soonest based on roads and speed limits. Based on this requirement, all of 13 townships and parts of six other townships in Stutsman County fall within the Medina Ambulance Service area. Six additional townships in Kidder County are also served by Medina Ambulance.
That area encompasses about 700 square miles that will have to be served by ambulances from Carrington, Jamestown, Gackle or Kidder County if Medina Ambulance Service shuts down.
"All other ambulance services would have to expand their service areas," Bergquist said. "Response times would dramatically increase."
Jim Albrecht, Kidder County emergency manager, said many of the ambulance services could have difficulty reaching a person in need.
"All would be a long haul to get there," he said.
Olson estimated it could take an extra hour for another ambulance service to reach some parts of the Median Ambulance area. In addition, ambulances from other agencies would not know the roads and could have difficulty even finding someone in an emergency.
Bergquist said Medina Ambulance has been dispatched between 60 and 75 times per year over the past four years. That averages to five or six calls per month.
Olson said people are paid for their time when they are called out and for time spent in training. The most common calls are motor vehicle accidents and general medical situations.
"Stroke is becoming one of our more common calls," Olson said. "Wintertime it is a lot of trauma on Interstate (94)."
Olson said Medina Ambulance Service has not set a timeline for making any decision.
In fact, it is hoping the publicity associated with the possibility of shutting down will eliminate the need to consider the issue altogether.
"People take us for granted, that we'll always be there," Olson said. "... we're trying to generate interest to keep from closing."
©2019 The Jamestown Sun (Jamestown, N.D.)