St. Paul, Minn. – Today, State Rep. John Huot (DFL-Rosemount) hosted a remote public meeting with regional Emergency Medical Services boards and over 80 EMS workers to engage in a discussion about the state of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) since the onset of COVID-19. A bipartisan group of representatives were in attendance: Rep. Jamie-Becker Finn (DFL-Roseville), Rep. Ginny Klevorn (DFL-Plymouth), and Rep. Dave Baker (R-Willmar). Attendees and legislators primarily focused on recruitment and retention of EMS volunteers, which has been an ongoing challenge pre-pandemic. NBC reported last year that 1/3 of rural America faces an EMS shortage.
“This is certainly not a new problem, but an important one we must address, especially now more than ever,” said Rep. Huot. “Our EMS workers, most of whom are volunteers, are on the frontlines working hard to keep us all safe and healthy every day. My job is to listen and do all I can to help these first responders get the resources they need.”
Many volunteer EMS workers on the call expressed concerns about retaining current volunteers, as many are older, more likely to contract the virus, and are close to retirement age.
“People in rural communities are busier these days, and less willing to give their free-time to volunteer pursuits,” said Chad Powers, a schoolteacher at New London-Spicer High, and EMS volunteer in the Willmar/New London region. “As our communities grow and age, we are faced with the dilemma of increased call volumes and smaller EMS squads. Burnout and retirements are culling our ranks, especially since the onset of COVID-19. Many small-town ambulance services will soon be at a critical crossroads regarding our future.”
The EMS workers in attendance also discussed potential legislative solutions, such as changing minimum age requirements to volunteer from 21 to 18 and state aid to the EMSRB (Emergency Medical Services Regulatory Board) to help cover costs and to potentially offer wage incentives to volunteers.
Rep. Huot represents House District 57B, which covers Rosemount, Apple Valley, and Coates. He serves on the Health and Human Services Policy Committee, Education Finance, Property and Local Tax, and the State Government Finance Division. Rep. Huot can be reached by phone at 651-296-4306 or by email at email@example.com.