SD Department of Health fighting to address EMS staffing shortages

Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 4:59 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Staffing for emergency medical services across the country has become increasingly difficult, including in South Dakota, where EMS teams are nearly 90 percent volunteer-based.

The South Dakota Department of Health is aware of the issue, which is why lawmakers appropriated $20 million toward bettering EMS services in 2022.

It’s happening in three different parts.

Over 300 life packs at $35,000 each are being updated in ambulances.

Also, Telemedicine in Motion — connecting ambulance services with additional medical professions — is now being implemented.

Lastly, a research-based project is being conducted, communicating with those working on the ground to get a better gauge of where the problem is most critical.

“We are working with partners to look at problem-solving for the long haul,” said Melissa Magstadt, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Health. “I’ll tell you today, if you call 911, your people will be there. But it would be really ridiculous of us to not look at this and say, ‘What about 5 years and 10 years from now?’ That’s really what we’re looking at — not letting today’s struggles be tomorrow’s lack of delivery of care.”

Secretary Magstadt also said that something they’ve found so far in their study is that towns that offer EMS courses close by are less likely to be struggling with lack of staff.

”Telemedicine in Motion adds an entire set of people who are doing your work with you. It’s another pair of eyes, another pair of ears, and another brain to be thinking through what this patient needs. If the 20 we have has a team along with them, then you’re not necessarily by yourself any more in the back of the rig,” said Magstadt.

Secretary Magstadt detailed one South Dakota municipality that decided to create an additional tax in order to provide pay to its EMS staff in an effort to address potential staffing problems.