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As rural EMS agencies struggle for funding, St. Luke’s Foundation steps up with grant for life-saving equipment

Linn County, Iowa (KWWL) — Rural emergency service agencies face a lot of challenges but one of the biggest here in Iowa is funding.

That’s why the St. Luke’s Foundation in Cedar Rapids gave $25,000 to 10 rural fire and EMS departments this year alone.

“We can essentially bring the E-R to them, start those treatments,” said EMS Director for the Lisbon-Mount Vernon Ambulance Service, Jake Lindauer.

As a paramedic ambulance service, their rigs are essentially an ER on wheels and it’s not cheap.

“The biggest issues that we face is definately funding. Our [call] volume is going to be lower and that’s really what drives funding for rural ambulance serives,” said Lindauer.

These agencies can’t rely on tax dollars and the money they’re getting back from insurance doesn’t always cover their costs explains Lindauer, “So it really is the reimbursements from the calls we’re going on, the transports. In our area, we’re kind of unique because we are a rural ambulance but because we’re considered part of the metro area our reimbursements are even lower than say Cedar County.”

Despite the services classification, they’re covering hot spots like Highway 30 and with transports routinely around 30 minutes they decided to put the grant money toward Pelvic Binders.

“We can see fairly significant bleeding and there is no real good way to control that bleeding from the outside except for with these binders,” said Lindauer.

The St. Luke’s Foundation saw this need among rural agencies starting with the farm crisis back in the 1980s says the Director of Grants and Admissions, Tonya Arnold, “It has just been going now for almost 40 years. Every year we award anywhere from 15 to $25,000 to our rural partners.”

Trying to ease the burden of the costs and equipment needed to get to emergency rooms.

“Healthcare is expensive, pieces of equipment, staying with the state of the art is expensive,” said Arnold.

“Without these grants or similar grants, we wouldn’t be able to have the equipment we have,” said Lindauer,

EMS agencies do not receive statewide funding in Iowa because it’s not considered an essential service like police departments. That often leaves the agencies, which are largely volunteer-based, to fundraise for needs like upgraded equipment.

Along with the struggle to find funding Lindauer also says they’re in need of more volunteers.

Arnold says any rural fire, 1st-responders, EMS agencies within their 7 county partnership can apply for the grant. There are certain criteria that need to be met, for instance being a pre-hospital provider.

Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids

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