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Emergency Services Getting Thinner in Rural Areas

SHENANDOAH, IA – Iowa’s rural communities are losing emergency service volunteers and more and more small towns are relying on bigger hospitals farther away. Shenandoah Medical Center C-E-O, Matt Sells, says that translates to longer response times. He says their service area continues to grow while staffing and budgets shrink.

“The average person believes that when they call 9-1-1 an E-M-S service is going to respond. And the truth of that statement is that there is no guarantee,” Sells says. He estimates Shenandoah’s ambulance services lose 700 dollars a day. The lack of rural services has a domino effect on larger cities according to West Des Moines assistant chief of emergency services Dave Edgar. He says the more communities rely on larger facilities, the bigger strain those ambulance services feel.

“It’s about ready to potentially cause a pretty big collapse of the of the E-M-S system which will result in a partial collapse of the healthcare system,” according to Edgar. The Iowa legislature said last year that counties could fund emergency services by increasing property taxes. But Sells says it’s difficult to secure the 60 percent of voter support needed to help Shenandoah.
(By Kendall Crawford, Iowa Public Radio)

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