Dire situation continues for Buffalo Center Ambulance

More volunteers are urgently needed to keep the Buffalo Center Ambulance service going, and the City of Buffalo Center hopes new pay incentives will get people interested.

Ambulance members attended last week’s Buffalo Center City Council meeting to update the Council on their situation. Paramedic Joe Klukow says they don’t know how to get more people to help. Only three volunteer EMTs have been available lately to cover all the daytime hours, and they have also had trouble covering nights. He says some days they’ve resorted paying someone from out of town to come sit at the ambulance shed.

Volunteers are needed at all levels, including EMTs, first responders, paramedics, and drivers.

While the ambulance crew has been shorthanded for years, the need for help became even more pressing last summer when ambulance president and longtime volunteer Tom Holland stepped down due to his health. He passed away in November. Klukow says two other ambulance members have also been hospitalized recently.

The ambulance crew currently pays volunteers $20 for each trip they make. It can take upwards of three hours to transport a patient to the hospital. Mayor John Davids suggested increasing that payment substantially, and the Council discussed dollar amounts ranging from $40 to $200 per call.

Klukow said their checkbook would dwindle quickly if they increase their payments to volunteers. He said the ambulance has about $80,000 in its accounts, and they can’t adjust the rates they charge to patients to raise more money. He says they would either need to be subsidized or increase their call volume to maintain their funds. Mayor Davids said he’s more worried about saving the service than saving money.

Councilman Rick Hofbauer suggested the ambulance hold a public meeting to inform the public about the situation they’re facing and to reach out to potential new recruits, both young and old. The group also discussed talking to the Rake City Council again about financing for the ambulance, as Buffalo Center provides ambulance coverage for Rake.

The City will advertise new pay incentives for ambulance volunteers, although the final dollar amount has not yet been determined.