Ambulance service woes continue in Meade County

The Rural Meade Ambulance service at Enning ceased operation on April 30 leaving a 1,500 square mile response area void in central Meade County. The map shows the areas of the county and the ambulance service that now serve them. Courtesy photo

STURGIS — Meade County recently resolved an ambulance service issue, but county officials are now faced with another.

In March, residents of rural Meade County overwhelmingly approved a rural ambulance tax district which would insure continued ambulance service for their area.

But on April 30, the Rural Meade Ambulance Service in Enning, which serves an area of the county east of the newly formed tax district, ceased operations due to lack of volunteers to keep the organization operational.

“They have been struggling with this for years. They made a determination that they could not go out and be a 24-hour response ambulance,” Meade County Commission Assistant/HR Manager Jerry Derr told county commissioners Tuesday.

That action left a void in the service response area that Enning had previously covered.

Derr contacted officials from ambulance services which currently serve portions of the county to ascertain if they would be willing to fill the void.

Here’s what they said:

The Faith Ambulance would be willing to expand their coverage area south of 212, everything east of Stoneville Road down to Highway 34 and back to Howes.

The Newell Ambulance is willing to expand their area for everything west of Stoneville Road down to Highway 34 and back to the border with the Sturgis Ambulance Service response area.

The Wall Ambulance Service governing board said they would need a proposal about expanding into the void so that they could take it before their ambulance district board and membership.

The Rapid City Ambulance Service administration said they are already stretched too thin, and are not willing to take on new territory.

Kim Richards, Butte County commissioner, attended the meeting with Newell Ambulance Director Sherry Hocking. In Butte County, the cities of Newell and Belle Fourche, along with the county, fund the ambulance service.  Meade County Commission Chairman Ted Seaman thanked Richards and Hocking for agreeing to expand their response area.

“It’s going to be a tremendous help for those people living out in those rural areas,” Seaman said.

Hocking questioned the commission about reimbursement for their service calls.

“Butte County taxpayers shouldn’t be the one on the hook pay, especially if you have a non-payable and non-billable run into Meade County,” she said. “The area you are asking us to cover is extensive mileage wise.”

Hocking also pointed out that the majority of the runs into Meade County would be on gravel.

Seaman said it may be possible to tap into funds that the Rural Meade Ambulance had donated annually by area ranches to help pay the other ambulances who step up to fill the void.

“We want to speak to the people of that area to see if they would keep contributing. Then, we could use those funds to help reimburse Newell or Faith if there were shortfalls,” he said.

Richards said Butte County is about $140,000 in the red for their ambulance service budget.

“We’ve had about 700 and some runs. Butte County taxpayers are paying  about $200 every time that ambulance goes out,” he said.

Meade County commissioners took no action at the meeting Tuesday, but discussed scheduling a meeting in the Union Center area to talk to residents about the future of ambulance service in central Meade County.

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