LEWISTON – Idaho officials are planning meetings across the state next month to discuss the problems facing many rural emergency medical agencies.
The state Bureau of Emergency Medical Services and Preparedness is planning 16 meetings to address the agencies’ concerns that include a lack of funding and a shrinking pool of volunteers, the Lewiston Tribune reported .
The meetings seek to elicit “tangible solutions that we can bring to the table today to help address these issues,” said Wayne Denny, the chief of the state bureau.
Funding for emergency medical services in rural communities can vary widely, Denny said. Some agencies receive tax dollars, but private organizations largely rely on donations.
The state allocates about $1.4 million annually for rural agencies to buy ambulances and other equipment, Denny said. There is also a federal grant that helps agencies purchase pediatric equipment, he said.
Some rural agencies turn to bake sales and other fundraisers just to buy fuel for their vehicles, Republican state Sen. Carl Crabtree said.
“My question is how sustainable are these agencies?” Crabtree said. “How do we develop a model that sustains itself and keeps care at the community level?”
As populations shrink in some areas of the state, the pool of volunteers also declines.
“Some have been doing it for 20 years and want to retire,” Denny said. “Others see some things they can’t deal with, and for others it’s just too hard balancing work and family and their volunteer activities.”
A little more than half of 4,400 emergency medical personnel in the state are paid. Volunteers make up the remainder, though some volunteers are compensated per call.
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