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Ind. EMS units search for staffing shortage solutions

MARSHALL COUNTY, Ind. Hundreds of fire and EMS departments across the country continue to struggle to find enough volunteers to fill their ranks. Now, one in Marshall County says they're at a breaking point.

It's quickly become the talk of the town in Bourbon.

"They don't have enough volunteers," said one man on Main Street.

"That's a big issue here," said another.

But it's all old news to Bourbon Emergency Medical Services Vice President Thomas Patrick.

"We just can't get people to volunteer," he told WSBT. "It's been an issue for about 5 years now, on and off, but now there are points during the week when there's no one here."

For the last few years during those point, Bourbon's solution has been mutual aid from nearby departments like Plymouth and Bremen.

But there's a problem. That makes for some very long response times.

But it also puts those other departments in danger of missing their own emergency calls.

"It certainly is a strain," Plymouth Assistant Chief for EMS John Grolich told WSBT. "We're at risk, yes indeed."

To ease the burden, Plymouth added a "chase vehicle" a specially equipped SUV staffed with a paramedic.

It's helped, but not much.

"And Bourbon's not alone," added Chief Grolich. "There are other communities in Marshall County that are just totally strained."

And if that doesn't change, Plymouth may have no choice but to stop responding to other town's calls. So Bourbon's Town Council President Bill Keyser has come up with another solution: privatization.

"Multi Township [of Warsaw] will provide service 24-7 in town," he told WSBT. "It will be a paramedic. And for that, we'll pay them a contract fee."

Right now, it appears that fee would be about 70 thousand dollars 10 thousand dollars more than the current cost of the town's entire EMS operation.

But taxpayers WSBT spoke with say it's a worthwhile investment:

"Definitely worth somebody's life," said one.

"I'll support it," said another.

"We're at a breaking point," added Patrick. "We've got to do something."

Bourbon residents will get a chance to weigh in on the idea of EMS privatization this Thursday night at 7pm at Triton Junior-Senior High School.

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