Opinion

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Letter

Support Emergency Medical Services

Take some ownership of this and do the right thing

We have a looming crisis for emergency medical services in the Flathead Valley. If not dealt with soon this will result in loss of life for you, a family member, friend or neighbor.

What happens when you dial 911? An ambulance shows up with qualified personnel who provide treatment and transportation to the hospital. What most folks don’t realize is that the system in its current form is not sustainable. The common thought is that EMS service is government funded much like police or fire. It is not.

There is no legal mandate for EMS service. Communities struggle to provide this service; some through volunteers, others through paid staff. Both models are failing. The first because fewer people are volunteering and those who do are working fewer hours. The latter because to attract professional people you actually have to pay a professional wage and EMS services lack the funding to do this. Current ambulance collections in the Flathead are below 50 percent. Do you know of any business that can survive if half its customers demand service but refuse to or cannot pay? You could charge those who do pay twice as much, but no matter what you charge insurance will only pay a reasonable percentage. The federal government is one of the biggest reimbursement offenders, paying only a fraction of the cost of each patient under their system. EMS is an essential service and should be community supported.

We rightfully expect EMS providers to be highly trained and demonstrate advanced skills necessary to save lives. Do we really think we can get this by depending on volunteers or paying just a bit more than minimum wage?

Do you even know who provides EMS transport services to your community and how they are funded? Now would be a good time to find out. As a community we have kicked this can down the road far too long. Yes, it will take a sizable hit to the wallet to get us where we should be, but we’re talking about human lives. Get informed, get involved. Does your community have a proposal on the ballot? Take some ownership of this and do the right thing. The life of your loved ones depends on it.

Dick Sine
Bigfork

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