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October 09, 2013
911. . . What is Your Emergency?
When you dial 911 for a medical emergency or accident, you expect an ambulance with EMT’s and possibly First Responders to show up
WESTBROOK, Minnesota (STPNS) -- Special — For most residents, when they call 911 with a medical emergency, they don’t think twice about it. Typically local ambulance personnel from the area will show up with trained EMT’s and/or First Responders.
However for Westbrook and Walnut Grove that service could very easily be reduced to no local service or First Responders only.
In talking with Nate Knakmuhs, an EMT serving on the Walnut Grove service, he said, “it is ironic that both Westbrook and Walnut Grove have come to a significant need for new members to their squads.”
Knakmuhs asked if the Sentinel Tribune would do a story to emphasize the fact that both services are in dire need of new members.
It seems that some people think the Ambulance Associations are fully funded and manned by paid personnel, that is not the case, The EMT’s and First Responders are volunteers that take time from their work and families to respond to accidents, medical emergencies and medical transfers.
Yes these people do get paid for going on calls, on call status, and the benefit of a small pension. However, the vast majority of squad members do it as a sense of duty to their community.
Knakmuhs, who also serves as president of the Sanford Medical Center Westbrook board, said he is trying to work with both squads to come up with solutions to help bolster the services.
Dave Van Loh is the director of the Westbrook Ambulance squad. He is responsible for seeing that personnel and equipment are certified for use by the squad. Brandy Vande Kieft is the vice president, Scott Caswell is the Secretary, Janet Johnson is the organizations financial manager and training director, and Dan Joel is the squads equipment manager.
The squad now has 10 EMTs and three First Responders. However three EMTs have expressed a desire to retire within the next year. Right now they are covering on call time 24-7 which is about the bare minimum needed to operate. “Once those three people retire, if they are not replaced, it will be very tough to maintain 24-7 coverage for very long,” said Van Loh. “Since the formation of the Squad in 1970? there has been no time we have not had coverage.”
Van Loh is urging people to come forward and volunteer to take either the EMT 180? hour course or the 60 hour First Responder course. The Ambulance Service pays the tuition and the time while they are taking the classes.
Van Loh said, “we are looking at putting together some sort of incentive package to entice people to sign up for classes. We have enough funding resources to finance all of our vehicle and equipment replacement, but we can not use money from that pool to enhance bonus and other pay incentives.”
“We are at a critical point, where if we don’t get at least three more people certified to go on duty, it could jeopardize the service,” said Van Loh.
The organization has kept up with technology and equipment needs, and sports two newer model ambulances. Their litters now are equipped with electric lifting mechanisms.
Van Loh said, “the majority of our runs are transfers from the nursing home to the medical center, or to other facilities. We don’t have a lot of 911 calls which deal with serious emergencies.”
He said, “we are planning on having an open house type meeting yet this month for interested people wanting to get more information about becoming an EMT or First Responder.
Van Loh said, “we are looking at the potential of working with other close by communities to possibly get a group of people to take the course together. We are not the only service around that is having this problem, so if we can work with other organizations it might benefit the whole area.”
Talking to Walnut Grove Ambulance president, Mike Landuyt, he said, “we have been going through these large retirement numbers for the past few years. Despite that, their numbers had remained level, but now are down similar to Westbrooks. Joleen Baumann is assistant director for the organization.
The Walnut Grove squad has nine EMT’s and 4 First Responders, and also will have one more First Responder coming on board soon.
He said, “our biggest problem is having enough people to have 24 hour coverage. Several of our members have jobs that prevent them from being available on a regular basis.”
Landuyt said, “unlike Westbrook, most of our calls are of the 911 type involving medical emergencies of accidents. We do make an occasional transfer from Country View Apartments.”
“Recently we did a door to door campaign handing out pamphlets to people giving them information about becoming an EMT, or
First Responder. We did get a couple of inquiries from it,” he said.
With a large population of Hmong people they are hoping to generate more of them to join the organization.
He noted, as assistant fire chief, it is easier to get people to serve on the Fire Department because there is no on call time involved, and there are fewer calls during the year. With the ambulance service it is required that you must have at least one EMT and one First Responder.
Landuyt noted, “we get really good financial support from the community and the townships, but what we need is more people in the service. I don’t think people understand how critical the situation is — if we don’t get more people on the squad we may have to go to a First Responder only organization.”
No one wants to take down the First Responders because they also do a great service to the communities they serve. However even though First Responders can do most of what EMT’s do, they can not transport victims. That will have to wait for the nearest ambulance service. Also First Responders do not have to be on call.
If you are interested in becoming an EMT or First Responder you can contact either city clerks in Walnut Grove and Westbrook; Jan Johnson, in Westbrook; Mike Landuyt in Walnut Grove.
Members of the Walnut Grove Ambulance squad are: (EMT’s) Ford Ankrum, Eric Belling, Elizabeth Bender, Jeff Harnack, Joleen Baumann, Nate Knakmuhs, Amy Koblegard, Michael Landuyt, and Joleen Shaaf. First Responders: Dan Baker, Buddy Baumann, Andy Foster, and Tom Hansen.
Westbrook EMT’s: Ryan Anderson, Scott Caswell, Angie Cohrs, DeAnn Conrad, Dan Joel, Jan Johnson, Joan Jorgenson, Bev Pederson, Dave Van Loh, and Brandy Vande Kieft. First Responders: Curt Madson, Alan Wahl, and Jeff Weis.
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