This story and photo originally appeared in the Sept. 14, 1979 issue of the Farmington Evening Press. — Editor
Since its beginning on Sept. 15, 1977, the St. Francois County Ambulance Service has come a long way in the many services it provides during emergency situations.
Whether they are rushing to the scene of a traffic accident or to the aid of a heart attack victim, members of the service offer many great services during emergency conditions anywhere in the country.
Mark Allen, St. Francois County Ambulance supervisor, said that when the ambulance service began almost two years ago, they had only one emergency van.
“We now have two licensed ambulances which are the finest you can get,” Allen said. “Along with the ambulances, we have heart monitors and recorders that we use for heart attack victims. We also have ventilators which are used when a person is having a problem breathing. The ventilator literally breathes for them.”
The ambulance service presently has six members who serve on its board of directors. The six members are Dr. Richard Winder, Marvin Atkins, Al Sullivan, Henry Cashion, Glen Roux and John Osborne.
“We report our progress to them every month,” Allen said. “They approve any equipment we buy. When we ask for something, we show them our need for it and they will either approve it or disapprove it,” he added.
There are currently 16 employees who work for the ambulance service, nine of whom are going to school at Jefferson college to become Mobile Emergency Medical technicians. The ambulance board is reimbursing the money for the employees’ studies if they maintain a C average or better.
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Allen stressed that many people have the misconception that the ambulance service is for taking people back and forth on routine transfers.
“We’re an emergency service,” Allen said. “We’re not set up to take someone to the doctor for a routine checkup. We’re strictly an emergency service.”
Allen said one problem they occasionally run into in answering emergency calls are prank calls which ultimately leads to “dry runs.”
“During the month of August this year, we received and responded to 121 emergency calls, 10 of which were dry runs because of people who call in for pranks,” Allen said. “We could be out on a wild goose chase when someone could really be hurt.”
Receiving prank calls is something members of the ambulance service have had to put up with from the very beginning. “In January of 1978, we answered 99 emergency calls, six of which resulted in dry runs,” Allen noted.
One would think that the cost of using the ambulance service would be extremely high considering the cost of living, not to mention the soaring prices of hospital care. Believe it or not, the cost to an in-county resident for the use of the ambulance service is only $35 per call.
“That does not even cover part of what it costs,” Allen said. “It’s not even close. We don’t worry about whether or not a person can pay until after we’ve helped them. As a matter of fact, we just bill them for it,” he continued.
“We have to charge people because there’s no way we could run this service on just collections. Sure, we like to get collections, but considering the use of our equipment and personnel, $35 doesn’t even come close to covering all our expenses.”