Heart of America, News, Operations

An Inside Look at America’s ‘Collapsing’ EMS System

Above, an ambulance with the Hebron Ambulance Service in North Dakota. (Facebook photo)

HEBRON, N.D. – NBC is taking a deep dive on America’s rural communities and how emergency medical services operate with volunteers and tiny operating budgets.

Much of the report focuses on Hebron, North Dakota – population 667 – and 60 miles away from Bismarck, the closest city with a hospital.

According to the report:

There is no hospital in Hebron. In fact, when someone calls 911, there isn’t even a law that requires anyone in Hebron to answer the phone. Like so many other low-income, rural communities across the country, the small town’s ambulance runs on altruism alone.

And those ambulance services are closing in record numbers, putting around 60 million Americans at risk of being stranded in a medical emergency. Because so many emergency medical services (EMS) agencies have been struggling financially, some states are stepping in with funding. But emergency medical experts say it’s not enough to cure the dire situation.

“We struggle getting enough staff to cover every shift, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Steven Maershbecker, the leader of the town’s ambulance service.

The story will air tonight on “NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt” at 6:30 p.m. ET.