SIOUX CITY | With big changes ahead for an Sioux City-based ambulance agency, a Woodbury County department leader wants the mid-year addition of three paramedic jobs to serve rural residents.
The addition of three jobs would cost an estimated $97,555 for the first six months of 2018. If the Woodbury County Supervisors agree to fund the changes for a full allotment into the 2018-19 fiscal year, the cost will be $195,110 annually.
The supervisors in a Tuesday county board meeting expressed difficulties in finding money to pay for the new jobs, both in a half-year addition and then in subsequent fiscal years.
“I don’t think anybody is against this, but we don’t have the funding for it at the moment,” Supervisor Rocky De Witt said.
The supervisors discussed the hirings, but will not make a decision until a future meeting, likely by Oct. 31.
Citing financial difficulties, the 35-year-old Siouxland Paramedics in August informed city of Sioux City officials that it would cease providing 911 services to Sioux City and North Sioux City by year's end. Sioux City Fire Rescue, a department of the city of Sioux City, will run a new emergency medical services division that will respond to 911 ambulance calls beginning Jan. 1.
Woodbury County Emergency Services Department Director Gary Brown said with Sioux City Fire Rescue personnel taking on the differing role in January, the trickle-down effect is that the changes "will not allow them to respond to rural paramedic assists." Brown said the exception will be that in "catastrophic" incidents Sioux City Fire Rescue could respond in the county, but outside of that county officials need to fend for themselves and beef up personnel.
Brown proposed three jobs be added by Jan. 1: two full-time operations officers/paramedics and a paramedic who would work three-fourths time.
Brown called them a "necessity for citizens living in and traveling within rural Woodbury County." He said counties across Iowa are stepping up with more funding for paramedic personnel, since there is a growing dearth of volunteers for small-town ambulance and fire crews.
Brown said over the last four months there have been 130 calls for paramedic assistance in the county when the Emergency Services did not have a paramedic scheduled to work.
Supervisors Matthew Ung and Jeremy Taylor said they have qualms about being able to afford the new paramedics personnel. One proposal discussed was to tap county reserve funds, and a full financing proposal will be aired when the issue returns for a vote.
Early in 2017 Brown sought to add two paramedics as part of setting the fiscal year 2017-18 budget, but that hiring was not approved.