Iowa EMS agencies prepare to become essential services

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) – EMS departments in Iowa are gearing up to become essential services. Earnings are a big boost to becoming one. This would allow them to collect tax money to pay for services.

This can help pay staff and provide training, which is needed in many rural communities. Governor Reynolds signed the bill into law last June. Each county’s Board of Supervisors will decide whether to declare their EMS services as essential.

Cedar County is expected to vote and pass it next week. In Linn County, EMS agencies are now beginning talks.

Madison Day works 36 hours a week as a paramedic for the Lisbon-Mount Vernon Ambulance Service Residency Program. She balances her residency with a full-time job since residency doesn’t pay.

“If you have to choose between taking a shift at work or taking a shift here, we’d rather be here,” Day said. “But sometimes, financially, we have to pick up our shift at work.”

Only the director of EMS is paid at Lisbon-Mount Vernon. Being able to pay helps keep workers like Day. It will also cover the cost of training, equipment and help them on a call as they are seeing a 14% increase in calls according to EMS manager “You call 9-1-1, you expect until an ambulance shows up.” said Jake Lindauer, director of EMS for the Lisbon-Mount Vernon Ambulance Service. “And not only should you expect an ambulance to show up, but you should also expect trained people to show up in that ambulance.”

Linn County EMS agencies are also discussing the next step. If supervisors approve a tax for EMS departments, it will then go to a ballot that will require a 60% supermajority to pass. They hope to have this in place within the next two years. Day says that’s a long time coming and it’s vital for small communities in Iowa to retain experienced paramedics.

“A lot of us joke around and say that you just have to pay us already because we love being here,” she said. “We love the family we have here.”

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Michelle J. Kelley