Wabasha residents reflect on service, importance of ambulance service
This week marked the 47th annual National EMS Week — a time to celebrate emergency medical service responders and the work they do in their communities.
WABASHA — For years, Larry Glander spent time under the ambulances of the Wabasha Ambulance Service as a the owner of an auto shop, but it wasn’t until he fell off a ladder in July 2018 that he was actually inside one as a patient.
Four years later, Glander and his wife Jane, are still grateful for the service their fellow community members rendered when Larry was in need.
The couple reflected on their experience with the rural ambulance service during the 47th annual National EMS Week.
"What we gain in Wabasha is we know a lot of our first responders, our EMTs that are with the ambulance, and there's a comfort level to having people who know," said Jane Glander, Larry's wife. "There's something to be said about knowing that person that comes to assist you or your family member. It's kind of beyond, it's just immeasurable."
In Wabasha, the ambulance service is a mix of volunteers and full-time emergency medical technicians paid for by the city of Wabasha property tax revenues. The 13 paid volunteers and three full-time staff respond to an average of 550 calls per year, complete hundreds of hours training and cover more than 17,500 hours of call time.
Wabasha is not alone in using volunteers to help meet the emergency medical needs of its community.
Eighty percent of rural EMS agencies throughout the state use some version of volunteers to staff their operations, according to the 2016 Rural EMS Sustainability Survey Results published by the Minnesota Department of Health’s Office of Rural Health and Primary Care.
For emergency medical responder Jeff Wallerich and emergency medical technician Tim Wallerich, serving with the Wabasha Ambulance Service is somewhat of a family tradition. The two unrelated Wabasha residents say it is something they enjoy doing.
For Jeff Wallerich, joining the ambulance service in 2018 after decades with the Wabasha Fire Department, was a way to spend more time with his daughter and serve his community.
For Tim Wallerich, whose mother and brother both served on the ambulance service, joining the service more than two decades ago was a way to use his nursing skills and give back to his community.
“I have the skill and the knowledge and the ability to help patients, help our residents in Wabasha in a time of need or medical emergency,” Tim Wallerich said. “I think the drive is just to continue the passion for helping people because I know I can do it, and I know I can help them out in their time of need.”
Both Wallerich men say they feel the community supports them and the ambulance service but there is always room for more volunteers and more support not just locally but from state and federal officials.
The 2016 sustainability survey highlighted the many challenges of providing such a service, which typically covers a small amount of residents but a large geographic area.
The report states that EMS is a vital link in the healthcare continuum.
"Without it, patients in need of time critical care for conditions such as trauma, stroke, allergic reactions and cardiac emergencies will suffer unnecessary disability and death," the report states. "EMS must survive for Minnesota’s rural citizens and visitors to have the best chance to survive these and other emergencies."