As of Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Emergency medical response is a critical service. Why aren’t its providers getting paid for it?
Rural communities have benefitted — those in Idaho County no less — from volunteers who have given their time and a portion of their incomes to train and serve as emergency medical technicians. Unless you take a ride in the ambulance, a 911 call for emergency medical service to your door or the scene of your accident is a free service. That EMS service remains free to the community, ready to respond 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.
According to long-time Grangeville EMT Bill Spencer at last week’s meeting of regional EMS providers, this saves the five-county region (Idaho, Lewis, Clearwater, Nez Perce and Latah) $5.2 million annually.
Sounds like a great bargain, and we’ve been spoiled to not have to bear this cost due to the generosity and compassion of our neighbors who take on this community service.
Listening to EMTs last week, more often the suggestion was to provide incentives – not salaries – to encourage both existing volunteers to hang in there, and for those considering getting involved in this service to take the plunge. Can help be provided in health insurance for those volunteers who are self-employed? Can they be put on state retirement? Is there assistance to pay for expenses in training and remaining qualified, and the clothes and gear it takes to be an EMT?
These suggestions are more than reasonable. They also show that EMTs understand their communities may be hard-pressed to take on fully funded EMTs, and that this still remains a service upheld by the heart of volunteers.
Responding to these suggestions takes action at all levels. State government needs to support, in some compensatory manner, these rural EMTs who treat Boise car crash victims no less than a Kooskia woman who is suffering a stroke. Federal legislators should recognize and honor this service by, for example, providing incentives for insurance companies to contribute to this care that likely saves them a pretty penny in hospital visits. Our towns and county government also need some buy-in as, first and foremost, our EMT neighbors need our support.
No more EMS service on the cheap. Give these folks some respect through sustainable support.