Ed Debesis knew he was short on volunteers when he took over as county EMS director March 30, but recent reductions in Marion have emphasized the need for recruitment.
Chairman Randy Dallke echoed that sentiment at Monday’s commission meeting.
“We’ve got to get some people on board with our service,” Dallke said.
Debesis told commissioners emergency responder is the starting level for volunteers, and that some want to start out as an EMR to see if it’s something they would want to continue.
“To test the waters, so to speak,” Holub said.
Holub mentioned a program that would allow high schoolers to receive credit for participating in an EMR training course. Newly-retired Marion EMT Gene Winkler said that it was discontinued due to lack of interest.
“We tried that for a little bit,” Winkler said, “but it didn’t last.”
Debesis agreed that it would be nice to get volunteers started in high school, but there was a problem.
“The hard part with high school students is that you can train them at 17 but they wont’ get their card until they’re 18,” Debesis said. “It’s kind of tough.”
Debesis said that two Tabor College students volunteer with the Marion EMS, and another had contacted him as well.
“The only problem (with the Tabor students) is that one of them can’t drive and all he can do is work the back end,” Winkler added. “So when he’s on by himself, we have to close down the ambulance.”
So although Marion has a few volunteers, the issue according to Debesis and Dallke is that scheduling is the major conflict.
“It’s a very alarming concern for the citizens of Marion,” Dallke said. “Folks, when you see that ambulance go down the street, you better thank them. We’re short on people.”
“Right now, we are shorthanded due to a person retiring and a person getting a full-time job,” Debesis said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. “There’s no easy fix to that.”
Debesis said he began teaching CPR class to seven Marion High School students after Monday’s meeting.
“We’re getting calls left and right about CPR,” Debesis said, “So we’re trying to accommodate that.”