High gas prices strike at ambulance services

This all leads to a significant risk of services closing, especially for rural areas that need it most.
Ambulance services have been struggling with high gas prices, and some services could shut down in rural areas if it continues.
Published: Jul. 21, 2022 at 6:20 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 21, 2022 at 7:06 PM CDT
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EAGLE LAKE, Minn. (KEYC) - We see high gas prices every time we go to the pump. But, for emergency medical services and ambulances, the price comes with a risk.

“If I don’t have gas in my rig, I can’t go anywhere. So, gas has got to be number one,” said Sheila Denton, a first responder at the Granada Ambulance Service.

“We’re talking at least $100 to top this thing off from a quarter of a tank, and that hurts,” South Central EMS Executive Director Mark Griffith added.

Because of rising gas prices, EMS has been struggling, impacting investment in staff, equipment, and infrastructure. This all leads to a significant risk of services closing, especially for rural areas that need it most.

“It could be, now, instead of having an ambulance in your community, out the door in three to four minutes and on-scene in seven, we might be talking 15, 20, 30 minutes depending on what part of the state or what part of the region you might be in,” Minnesota Ambulance Association Secretary and Treasurer John Fox said.

Funds for ambulances come from service reimbursement and fixed rate insurance that doesn’t adjust for today’s gas prices, which have nearly doubled.

“They’re only going to pay what they’re going to pay. So if fuel costs are going up, our services can’t put that in, now,” Griffith said.

Staffing issues for paramedics have always been an issue, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to volunteers, EMS staff have been able to meet community demands and keep rural ambulance services running, even with gas-price challenges.

“The volunteer first responders in Minnesota are the backbone of the response system. And they’re not going away,” Griffith said.

“But the big thing is just being a part of the community, and getting them out there to where they need to be,” Denton said.

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