At the May 8 meeting, the Rushford Council learned that longtime Ambulance Director Lynn Humble is retiring effective mid-June. Humble has worked for the service as a director for the last 10 years and as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for 39 years. Before Humble, Julie Zielbell Scuderio served from 2000-2013, and Anne Roberton served as volunteer director until 2000.
The change comes as the city continues to look for an assistant ambulance director and additional service members. Unfortunately, the number of willing persons to serve in rural ambulance services nationwide is dwindling while the demand for their work is increasing. Even the Minnesota Ambulance Association and Minnesota Department of Health posted articles on their websites titled “A Quiet Crisis: Minnesota’s Rural Ambulance Services at Risk.”
The department averages 250-300 calls per year. “Everyone has seen issues that other towns have had with lack of staffing, services consolidating or shutting down, and we are trying to mitigate that in our city,” read the ambulance service committee report. The Rushford Ambulance crew serves the city of Rushford and holds contracts with nine other townships/cities. All would be deeply, adversely affected without the service.
The service has taken several steps to incentivize new volunteers, including gaining permission to have drivers who are not EMTs, increasing pay, and compensation for training and meetings. It also worked to enhance and upgrade equipment where possible to assist staff in more efficient and quality patient care.
“We’ve tried to increase payments to incentivize or encourage people to come on or stay on the crew, but lack of staffing is not something that can be fixed by throwing money at the situation; you need more bodies,” continued the report.
Last December, the council unanimously approved the creation of the assistant position to share some of the burden. The goal was to prepare additional staff, add continuity, and smooth the transition of future management. Now, the city will seek to fill both positions.
The director position is a full-time, 40-hour-per-week position with full benefits. Work hours include time spent on calls. Applicants must be certified EMTs, but the job doesn’t require management experience. Humble will assist with the management training for individuals without it, and city staff will assist with paperwork responsibilities. The ambulance service will post the vacancy for current members first, then externally, if there are no applicants. The city will hold a more formal interview process if there are several applicants.
The council discussed the impact of the changes to the budget. The cost of the assistant position may balance out with the new director’s pay rate.
“You can’t really tell how it’s going to wash out,” said Clerk Kathy Zacher.
“The most important thing is to get well-qualified people,” said Councilor Sally Ryman. “We can work out the budget part.”
The service is acquiring three new crew members who are EMT-certified, but many more are needed. June 6, the service will begin a four-part Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) session to recertify existing EMRs, refresh those preparing to test for their EMT certification, and for any new candidates interested in training. Interested persons should contact city hall or the ambulance service.
In other news, the Rushford Fire Department also adds three new volunteer members. They have completed their interviews, questionnaire review, and agility test. All need to complete some level of training. The department knew of upcoming retirements in December, posted the positions in April, and was able to fill them quickly.
“There’s going to be more retirements. The department is working diligently to prepare,” said Fire Chief Chad Rasmussen. “Basically, these members will be in the back pocket, shadowing current department officers, for the next year.”
The council also approved a cooperative agreement between the city and the Rushford-Peterson School District for a trail/sidewalk extension near the new school. The agreement defines the cost and responsibility for both entities.
The Rushford Aquatic Center is preparing for its season. The council approved the 2022 operations report, advertising flyer, and rates for 2023. The lesson and season pass sign-up is May 20.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Monday, May 22, at 6:30 p.m. at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.