MITCHELL, S.D. — Ambulance services in some South Dakota towns are struggling to recruit emergency medical technicians despite a new state law reducing the number of EMTs required to respond to calls.

The Daily Republic reports that ambulance services in Gregory, Burke and Bonesteel/Fairfax may have to shut down in the next two years if the recruiting issue isn’t resolved.

“We’re getting to the point where if we don’t find more help soon, services are going to be looking at closing,” said Mark Green, vice president of Burke Ambulance Department. “It’s been a long-term issue and we’ve just kind of been getting by, but it’s a real problem.”

State law used to require two medical personnel and one certified driver respond to calls. A 2016 law said only one EMT and one driver is required, and the driver must have some first aid certification. A law also passed allowing emergency medical responders to be recognized as medical personnel in the state.

Becoming an EMT requires about 180 hours of training, while becoming an EMR typically takes 60. State Department of Health Secretary Tom Martinec said the goal is to create a “career ladder” where a person can start as an ambulance driver and work their way up with more training if they enjoy it.

But South Dakota Emergency Medical Services Director Marty Link said finding volunteers who can balance responsibilities at work, home and the ambulance service is a problem not unique to Gregory County.

He’s still hopeful for the future of Gregory County’s services and ambulances across South Dakota.

“You have good people out there doing important work, and I’m sure there are people out there who want to be part of it,” Link said. “With the more relaxed rules, I think that will encourage more to try it.”


Information from: The Daily Republic, http://www.mitchellrepublic.com

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