New EMS Center proposed at Redfield City Council meeting
By Shiloh Appel
During the Redfield City Council meeting held Monday, November 5th, EMS worker, Mike Sanger, proposed his idea for a local EMS Center to the council. Sanger said that he has been working on the plans for an EMS Center in Redfield for several years.
"EMS in South Dakota is really in crisis," said Sanger. "[In Pierre] they are really having a hard time recruiting EMT's. They are opening it up to high school classes and stuff and trying to get them to come in and help out. They are 18 years old."
Sanger said that one year ago, of the 66 EMS services in South Dakota, over half were in, "hardship clause," a condition in which they are unable to provide even two EMT's. To accommodate, the state of South Dakota passed a law that ambulances can have one EMT and one driver.
"As far as Redfield goes right now, we have been able to keep two EMT's," said Sanger. "Right now, we are in pretty good shape compared to other services around us. It is very hard to train and recruit EMT's because it is all volunteer. They always have other jobs. Daytime is especially hard. Night time is a little bit better as far as trying to get back-up. Right now, we have three of our EMT's that live out of town. They volunteer to come in."
Although Redfield is doing well on keeping EMT's, there are other issues that Redfield faces. According to Sanger, issues that need to be resolved include the absence of a place readily available for out-of-town EMT's to stay, the absence of a training and recruitment room for new EMT's, and a need for better storage of ambulance supplies and ambulances.
"Once a month one crew has to do a weekend, which is a Friday, Saturday, Sunday. If they live out of town, they have to come in and find a place to stay. They are doing all of this for two bucks an hour," said Sanger. "We have to treat our EMT's. They shouldn't have to find a place to stay.
Right now we have three ambulances. They are in two different garages. The garage to the north was built in 1972 and we have about 4 to 6 inches on either side of the mirrors. It is really small. So we keep two [ambulances] in there and one up in the new garage. We are looking at a new ambulance and we are due for that also. We are looking at a four wheel drive. If we do that, they will not fit into the north garage."
Sanger went on to explain that recruitment also needs to start happening in Redfield.
"We have an excellent service right now. We are providing everything that we can right now. But if we can't keep recruiting…some of us are getting older. I am probably the oldest one on the crew now. I won't be around forever. We need to start recruiting and training some new people," he said.
On getting started, Sanger said that he requested the building plans from Britton a couple of years ago after Britton built its own EMS Center.
"There is a lot of things I didn't like about that. They had the double pitched roof so all the snow would run off in front by the door. So we kind of made it a little narrower, a little longer. Moved the sleeping rooms upstairs. Changed things around," said Sanger."It has drug on for two years now because I would send it off for Chuck to make a couple more changes and it would come back and he would make my changes, but all of a sudden something else would be wrong…We finally got it to where we wanted it and then I had the Huron architect look at it. Months went by and I emailed him back and he said, 'oh, I lost it on my desk.' That happened twice."
According to Sanger, there has been no "hard cost" set for the construction of the proposed EMS Center, but he said he talked with an architect from Sioux Falls that estimated the cost to be about $800,000.
"I know this is a bad time with the law enforcement building going on. We have all sorts of things going on, but it is just time that we need to do this," said Sanger. "Realistically, I would hope that this summer we would be able to get going on this."
After Sanger shared and Mike O'Keefe spoke in support of the EMS Center, Mayor Jayme Akin thanked them for their time.
"I think most everybody agrees we do need an EMS Center and that would help out with the volunteers and everything, but as Adam said, funding is going to be an issue right now," said Akin. "So we are going to have to do some outside of the box speaking so to speak. Maybe NECOG could help us out with some grants. Maybe there are some other avenues as far as fundraising."
In addition to Sanger and O'Keefe, volunteers that were present in support of the new EMS Center were Cindy Sanger, Dawn Oakley, Eric Schueth, Sheri Zens, Jenna Appel and Kathy Schmitz.