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Rural EMS departments face unique challengesSubmitted: 10/29/2018
Story By Rose McBride

Rural EMS departments face unique challenges
NORTHWOODS - When a call comes in, Carole Selin has to leave work and respond quickly. 

"I'm a bus driver, I'm a secretary for a bus company and a construction company," said Selin, the Phelps Area EMS Director. 

She works many day jobs, but is also "on-call" nearly every hour of the day as an EMT for the Phelps EMS department.


"It's a non-stop process for us that do have jobs plus have this volunteer job," said Selin. 

Phelps only has eight EMTs. That can be a challenge when it comes to scheduling people to be on-call, which also means they have to stay in the town and respond at a moment's notice. 

"That means no fishing, no hunting, no fun," said Selin.

That same problem exists for the Land O' Lakes EMS Department. That squad has few members too, most of whom have been working there quite a few years.

Signe Baake has been an EMT since 1975. She says part of the reason the department has such low numbers is because getting younger people to join has become difficult. 

"It's become a daunting task with the amount of education that is required for each EMT," said Baake. 

But the Wisconsin Office of Rural Health wants to help. The office is holding Rural EMS listening sessions across the state, including in Woodruff, to learn about the difficulties these departments face daily. 

"If we can come together and come up with some shared ideas and solutions, I'm optimistic that legislators want to hear that and try and help," said John Eich, the Director of the WI Office of Rural Health. 

The Office of Rural Health wants to try to ensure that even in rural areas, patients can receive quality care. That's the goal for Phelps and Land O' Lakes EMS as well, which is why Selin and Baake spend the time they do on-call.

"When I am off from my main job I wear a pager 24/7," said Baake. 

They know the reward of saving lives is worth the sacrifice of time spent on the job.

"It takes special people to volunteer a lot of their time," said Baake. 


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