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Rural Health Care Update

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A fair number of stories are surfacing in the media about the deterioration of health care services in rural areas.  First, a story from MSU's Capital News Service about the dearth of EMS and medical transport services in rural areas:

Rural communities face challenges in providing ambulance services
By Elijah Taub | February 9, 2024

LANSING – In a medical emergency, people generally want whichever emergency service they call to get to the scene fast, but ambulances in rural areas face special challenges to help residents.

The biggest obstacle for fire and rescue stations in rural areas is the distance between someone in need and the station.

“We have seven different fire and rescue departments, but there is one department, for instance, that handles four townships,” said the director of the Leelanau County Office of Emergency Management, Matt Ansorge.

There are around 20,000 county residents, so the seven emergency centers could be stretched thin.

Situations like this exist in rural counties across the state, causing problems with providing emergency services. Ansorge continued.

“In Leelanau County, the response time boils down to a lot of the drive time from the station to the residents,” he said.

According to an information officer from the Department of Health and Human Services, Lynn Sutfin, “It’s not possible for an EMS agency to sustain itself without municipal support, which, in many cases, is at its limit.”

To reduce drive time, fire and rescue departments in Leelanau County have been sending out paramedics from the station as soon as they know they’re needed.

The 911 operators ask three questions at the beginning of a call to determine if someone specifically needs paramedics, enabling the station to send help as fast as possible. This tactic speeds up the time that it takes for paramedics to arrive at the scene.

Operators ask callers what the injury or illness is, if they’re conscious and their age. Paramedics should be on the way when these questions are done, according to the county website.

“That seems to work pretty well, but it may not be conducive for many different 911 centers,” said Ansorge.

The operators in Leelanau County are trained to be emergency medical operators. That means that while help is on the way, they can give CPR instructions and advice on treating minor wounds over the phone.

One way to reduce ambulance response times in rural areas is to start “finding ways and funds to incentivize communities to work together to appropriately provide EMS services,” said Sutfin.

Sufficient funding for emergency services could make a difference that saves lives.

Funding could come from insurance companies, Sutfin said, and recognizing EMS as an essential service in Michigan would help provide rural communities resources to cut response times.

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Joined: 11 months ago
Posts: 399
Topic starter  

A companion story: West Michigan Air Care will discontinue its helicopter service in West Michigan:

West Michigan Air Care to end helicopter service
By Katie Rosendale, Kyle Kuhns, Corinne Moore - February 16, 2024

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan Air Care will discontinue its helicopter service at Ascension Borgess Hospital and Bronson Healthcare.

An email sent to employees from Bronson Healthcare President and CEO Bill Manns and obtained by News 8 cited a 50% reduction in flights over the past 15 years, as well as strong ambulance transportation in the region.

The email said service would end on April 20.

In a joint statement provided to News 8, the health care systems said:

Ascension Borgess and Bronson Healthcare will be maintaining the helipads at our hospitals and will continue to transfer and receive patients via other helicopter services that serve the region to ensure patient care is not disrupted. Plans are in place to work with impacted West Michigan Air Care associates to determine potential opportunities for transitioning to open positions at Ascension Borgess and Bronson Healthcare that match their training and interests.

Kalamazoo-based West Michigan Air Care provides rapid medical services for patients at the scene of a crash, transfers critically ill and injured patients between hospitals and transports specialty teams.

On Sunday, West Michigan Air Care released a statement that read in part:

“Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, the current consortium of hospitals has made the difficult decision to cease operations effective April 20th. We understand the large void this will leave in the region, which is already limited on EMS resources. The Metro Aviation leadership team is working tirelessly with various area stakeholders to find a viable solution to continue to serve our communities.

“Until April 20th, you can continue to depend on the same level of excellence and professionalism you have come to expect from our organization. We ask for your continued support and respect for our staff as we navigate through this difficult situation.”

A spokesperson for Bronson told News 8 additional meetings about the changes are expected to take place next week.



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