Harvey Ambulance Discussion Meeting on Mill Levy Vote

1 crowd at mill levy meetingMonday evening a large crowd gathered at the Anamoose Senior Center to hear about the proposed 10 mill levy for the Harvey Ambulance Service that will be on the June ballot.  The meeting was conducted by the ambulance service members on a question/answer format.  Ambulance members at the meeting were:  Scott Spear, Shelly Stafford, Marla & Monte Countess, Kerry Susag, & Dusty Kost.

Scott Spear Marla Countess answering questions

Scott Spear & Marla Countess answering questions

In 2006 the Harvey Ambulance Service had 53 members on their roster, & now only have 19.  Each member works a full-time job in addition to volunteering.  I can see where it is hard to get members when I heard what is required by the state.  Average training hours for an ambulance person (initial) is 80 hours for Emergency Medical Responder (EMR), 120-180 hours for Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), & 1500-1800 hours for a Paramedic.  Then they have to be recertified every 2 years:  EMR-16 hours, EMT-40 hours, & Paramedic-60 hours.  Paramedics are the only ones that can start an IV.  It seems a lot to me that the state requires all this training & requires them to have 2 people on call within the bay or within 10 minutes of the bay.

The ambulance service was organized in 1971 & is currently licensed as a Basic Life Support Ambulance with Advanced Life Support capabilities. They cover an area of 900 square miles.  That is a lot of territory!

Marla Countess, the only paramedic in the area, stated “I’ve got to have some help”.  She puts in 72 hours a week (3500 hours a year) on call, in addition to working on her farm.  Her daughter & son-in-law relieve her when they can.  Marla has been on the service for 10 years after paying her own way for Paramedic schooling.  “I do it because people need it”.

Carol Jean Nichols, Drake, spoke out in support of the mill levy.  “I would have been dead at least 4 times if it weren’t for you”.

Of course as at any meeting involving funds there were concerns as to how the money will be appropriated.

The average call day has less than 1 call a day, or 280 calls this past year, but they have had up to 4 calls in a 12 hour shift.  The volunteers are paid $60 a shift, & need to take at least 12 shifts a year.  With the mill levy they could be paid $10 an hour.  Harvey is one of the busiest ambulance services.

Anamoose still has a quick response rig, but it can’t be used to transport patients.  It has the same equipment as an ambulance.

The average income from an ambulance call is only 66% from Medicare/Medicaid, & 89% from Blue Cross/Blue shield.  They wrote off $100,000 last year.  The question came up on what happened to the $250,000 they had in CDs & savings in 2010.  Scott Spear replied that since then they have a new building & a new ambulance.  He stressed that the mill levy would be used only for paying volunteers.  If the mill levy passes in June, a district board must meet within 2 weeks to set up a budget.  The board will decide how much of the 10 mills they will need.  In the past the ambulance service has been receiving money from grants, but it is getting harder to get that money as they have to go together with other districts.  Last year they received $32,000 in grant money.  The 3 ways to get current funding is:  fund-raising, donations & billing.

Area ambulance services that are funded by mill levy are:  Fessenden, Bowden, Maddock, McClusky, Towner, & Velva.

I went to the meeting a little skeptical about the number of mills they were asking, but after listening to all the responses to the questions, I am convinced that for us to have a good ambulance service we need to vote in the 10 mils.  At the end of the meeting Kay Buri, Drake, voiced my sentiment “I think we should give all the guys a great big hug”.  The mill levy is important to provide staffing for the service.  If people are not willing to volunteer then the Harvey Ambulance Service needs to be able to pay qualified individuals to meet the state requirements.

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