North Dakota

Resource, volunteer shortages impact rural ND ambulance services, Wing transitions to Quick Response Unit

WING, ND (KFYR) — In rural North Dakota, residents may be far from emergency medical care and now, as in many areas of employment, volunteer responders are in short supply. Because of this, some are working to find a solution to ensure every North Dakotan is cared for when needed.

Since the early 1970s, responders from the Wing Rural Ambulance Service have been ready to help those in need. Volunteer paramedics now do about one call out a week.

“It can be anything: car accidents, fires, someone falling down the stairs, medical calls,” said Jessica Kuhn of the Wing Rural Ambulance Service.

Four paramedics are there for you around the clock and have other jobs.

“We’re getting to a point where we can’t cover where we need to cover for the district. It’s been a long and difficult decision,” said Sara Vollmer, president of Wing Rural Ambulance Service.

Due to resource pressures, the team is working with the state to transition from the ‘Ambulance Service’ to the ‘Quick Response Unit’.

“If we are there and able, we will respond to the scene, examine the patient and prepare the patient for the next ambulance that would take them to the nearest hospital,” Vollmer said.

Wing responders remain ready to assist. But another emergency medical service, most likely Wilton, will handle the transport duties.

“That is the biggest concern, the biggest reality. We will have some delays in the arrival of the emergency services for transport,” Vollmer said.

EMTs say most areas won’t feel any difference in response time, except for the outskirts of the district. And the change also brings something positive with it.

“The only thing that will be better is that we can respond right from home as a rapid response unit. We can start assessing and providing basic care assistance even before the ambulance arrives,” Vollmer said.

There are 105 Quick Response Units in the state. Most were never full-time ambulances, but some, like the Carson Quick Response Unit, have made the transition in the past. After 18 months of discussion, Wing made the decision to follow in Carson’s footsteps.

“This is the best way we can continue to be active in our community with emergency medicine,” said Vollmer.

The two ambulances and equipment in the wing will be repurposed for use with the Quick Response Unit.

Transition for service from Wing to a Quick Response Unit occurs Monday evening at midnight.

Wing is seeking employees who wish to become EMT and EMR certified for the unit.

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