State Sees Spike in Ambulance Calls

Aging population, more interfacility transfers, fewer caregivers available cited as reasons for 8.5 percent increase.


 
 

Nancy Hicks | | Wednesday, May 21, 2008


LINCOLN, Neb. -- Wymore is a perfect example of the stress on ambulance services across Nebraska.

A decade ago, the volunteer ambulance service was making 145 runs a year, sometimes as many as 165, said Dean Cole, administrator of the emergency management services program for the state.

Last year, there were 212 runs in the Wymore area.

And this year officials are predicting as many as 245, Cole said.

That steady climb is occurring across the state, he said.

The state estimates ambulance calls went up 8.5 percent statewide between 2006 and 2007 from an estimated 123,000 to 133,800 runs, according to Health and Human Services Department statistics.

Beatrice, with little increase in population, has seen its emergency medical calls and interfacility transfers almost double since 1995, from 1,311 to 2,288 last year, said Fire Chief Brian Daake.

The upward trend reflects demographics, sociological changes and medical care changes, according to local and state emergency medical services officials.

There are more older people as baby boomers hit 60. More patients are dismissed from the hospital earlier and sometimes need to return, Cole said.

With many women working and younger generations leaving for jobs elsewhere, there are fewer family caregivers to check on patients or drive them to the hospital and clinic, he said.

Medical practices and expectations also have changed.

People know about the "golden hour." If patients receive treatment for trauma incidents in the first hour, they usually do better, said Don Harman, physician assistant at the Wymore Clinic and part of a committee looking at ambulance services in Gage County.

Wymore's status as a bedroom community is double trouble. Because neighbors are working, older citizens have no one to drive them to a hospital or clinic.

Because many people work out of the community, finding volunteer fire and rescue squad members is more difficult.

With the growing demand, "We are concerned about stressing out the volunteers," Harman said.

"Twenty years ago, I was told the number of people who worked out of town and were on the EMS squad could be counted on one hand. Now the number of people who work in town and are on the EMS squad can be counted on one hand."

The county study is looking at the number of calls, the severity of calls and the need for more volunteers, said Mark Meintz, emergency manager for Gage County.

"I want to make it perfectly clear we don't have a problem with the service provided," he said. "We don't have complaints about people getting bad care."

Reach Nancy Hicks at 473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com




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