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Ambulance services in need of a lifeline

Published: Dec. 3, 2020 at 10:44 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -The COVID-19 pandemic has been a struggle for many industries including private ambulance companies, which make up many of the EMS 911 services across South Dakota. According to the American Ambulance Association, across the nation, these companies are at what *they call “a breaking point.” So they are asking the federal government for more help.

During the pandemic ambulance companies have seen an increase in call volume, but a decrease in revenue. This is because many people don’t want to go to the hospital right now out of fear of catching COVID there. So they are instead treated on scene.

“Unfortunately in the ambulance business we do not get reimbursed for that from insurance companies or from Medicare when we do not transport people,” said Mark Postma, Immediate Past President of the American Ambulance Association and CEO of Patient Care EMS Solutions.

This is taking a toll on ambulance companies as they are dealing with a lot of costs during the pandemic.

At Med-star Ambulance in Brandon, staff has to be cautious as each call carries a potential risk to be exposed to COVID-19. So they go through plenty of PPE

“We have to cover our face, our hair, our head, our hands, our whole body basically is covered,” said Jay Masur, CEO of Med-star Ambulance.

Most of these items are one-time use, so purchasing all this equipment adds up.

“The cost of PPE has went up pretty significantly. We see numbers about five times the cost of normal PPE,” said Postma.

Another challenge ambulance companies face is being short-staffed due to staff getting COVID-19

“Then payroll becomes an issue because now staffing is no longer a 40 to 50 hour week, it’s a 70 to 80 hour week and now the companies are paying overtime to these people where they would be paying regular time. So that becomes a financial burden,” said Masur.

Private EMS services across the country collectively received $350 million in COVID relief funds, but companies say those funds have run out and that they are in need of more help.

“Some of our guys are getting kind of tired and the company financially, it’s a financial struggle to make it work,” said Masur.

So the American Ambulance Association has written a letter to the federal government requesting additional COVID aid.

“What we believe we need is about $2.62 billion,” said Postma.

That way these companies can continue to stay afloat and help their communities.

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