CADIZ - Shortage of volunteers has meant the village EMS service is unable to respond to many local calls. The village of New Athens has picked up the extra workload and the county seat continues to ask for volunteer help.
Cadiz Council Member Kevin Best said the distance from the center of New Athens to Cadiz town square is about six miles. He estimates travel time at four to six minutes, given optimal conditions and no delays.
Best said the EMS vehicles and equipment provided by the county are adequate, but the main obstacle to their efforts is the lack of volunteers.
He noted that there are only two or three still on station, willing to volunteer and who are certified EMTs.
"It takes a lot of time and money to get certified," Best said, adding that the state usually provides funds for the training.
He added that many volunteers are older and retired, while younger EMTs have gone to different organizations.
He added that Harrison Community Hospital's paid service is handling a greater number of calls.
Sheriff Joe Myers said both Cadiz and Hopedale EMS services are unable to respond. He commended New Athens for stepping into the breach. He confirmed that as per procedure, all three volunteer agencies are contacted simultaneously. If there is no response, the next private service is contacted.
He noted the need for volunteers and added that the issue is further complicated when other agencies hire EMTs and include restrictions to volunteer work in their contracts.
"Some paid organizations have taken our volunteers," he said. "They're hard to replace."
Myers said every effort is made to get the fastest squad to an emergency site, but due to the rural geography there are often delays.
He added that the county cannot dispatch for a private, for-profit entity without a contract in place.
Doug Crabtree, president of Harrison County's EMS Association, described the standard procedure.
He noted that the county operates on a three-department call out for EMS service, with one primary and two back up departments.
He said procedure for a Cadiz emergency is that the dispatcher at the sheriff's office notifies Cadiz EMS as the primary, with New Athens and Hopedale as back up. All are notified at the same time if an ambulance is needed. The standard practice has had New Athens heading to the scene two minutes after the initial contact, and Hopedale at five minutes. At that point, the dispatcher would begin contacting private services such as the hospital to supplement.
However, any of the volunteer agencies with a crew on-station is able to head out immediately with no delays.
Crabtree also noted the lack of volunteers that has hampered the village's ability to respond.
"Cadiz, still has EMTs on staff, but suffers from lack of volunteers. Volunteers have fallen off. It would be nice if people would step up and support the volunteers. It takes a lot of effort and time on people's part," he said, noting that volunteering is often demanding and calls for time away from family. People that do that deserve to be commended."
Kevin Milligan, vice president of operations at Harrison Community Hospital, said their squads are able to cover Cadiz when New Athens is unavailable. He added that they are notified after a period of time.
He noted that the hospital provides backup to all Harrison County fire departments and have had a mutual aid agreement since 2005. He added that they have had to accommodate more staffing and expenses due to an increased demand.
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