Moweaqua ambulance service to shut down

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MOWEAQUA, Ill. (WAND)- The non-profit ambulance group that serves Moweaqua plans to shut down May 1.

Moweaqua Community Ambulance Service opened in 1982 and operated with a volunteer staff until recent years. As numbers of volunteers waned, the service also began hiring EMTs who also worked for other agencies.

Now, the funds needed to pay a staff are running out, said EMT Coordinator Brooke Spa.

“If we had the volunteers to this day, we would not be in this situation we’re in,” Spa said. “It’s just out of our hands.”

Spa pointed to several factors for the decline in volunteers like changing personal situations and the need of many families to hold down multiple jobs.

“It takes two, three, four incomes to make it, unfortunately, in today’s economy,” Spa said.

Decatur Ambulance will serve Moweaqua after the Moweaqua Community Ambulance Service shuts down, Spa said. The Moweaqua Fire Department will also respond to those emergency calls and wait until the ambulance crews arrive, said Fire Chief Ramiro Estrada.  

“We’ve been taken first responder (training) for two, three years now and going on every EMS call with the ambulance already,” said Estrada. “Now, when we’re on scene (we wait) 15 to 20 minutes. With Decatur Ambulance, it could be as quick as five minutes … or 15, 20, 30 minutes.”

Many rural, volunteer-run ambulance organizations face similar fates, said Andy Gienapp, Rural EMS Committee Chair for the National Association of State EMS Officials. He points to demands on rural EMS volunteers.

“The demands as it relates to emergency medical services have increased significantly since EMS was first conceptualized,” Gienapp said. “The expectations of what an ambulance service and an EMS should be able to do has increased significantly, but the resources have not kept pace.”

Gienapp said EMS volunteers often receive more frequent calls for service than volunteer firefighters but with less prestige and fewer paying job prospects.

“In rural America, the ambulance services are being subsidized … in donated labor, and as that labor goes away and can’t be replaced, the communities are going to be forced to confront that,” Gienapp said.

That may mean paying for an ambulance service in the same way communities pay for police and other services.  

Meanwhile, Spa said her organization will donate its equipment to other groups.

“We’re going to miss doing this,” Spa said. “We love taking care of our village.”  

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