Oklahoma Rural Ambulance Services Struggling

Wednesday, March 11th 2009, 9:21 am
By: News On 6

By Gan Matthews, NEWS 9 for The News On 6

PURCELL, OK -- State lawmakers are mounting an effort to help ambulance services in small Oklahoma towns and rural areas survive.

Wadley's EMS Inc. is based in Purcell. But it must also by law respond to service calls all over McClain and other counties.

Almost half of Wadley's calls are outside the city limits, and four out of five times the patients don't pay, and Wadley's has to eat the cost.

"Once we leave the city limits, it's out of our pockets, with no, you know, no funds coming back," Janie Wadley of Wadley's EMS Inc. said.

The predicament Wadley's finds itself in is hardly unique. All over the state small ambulance services are struggling to keep rolling.

Since the year 2000, about 50 ambulance services in every part of Oklahoma have closed up shop because of lean times. But the state House this week passed House Bill 1888 to seek a way out of the financial crisis.

State lawmaker and physician Dr. Doug Cox is a co-sponsor of the legislation.

"Unfortunately in Oklahoma there are large portions of where there are no local emergency medical services available and there are prolonged response times from the nearest service. House Bill 1888 directs each county to come up with a plan to provide rapid transport for all the citizens of their county," Cox said.

Some communities have already taken steps. Oklahoma City and Tulsa have added a monthly fee on water taps to fund ambulance service. County Commissioners can brainstorm other options. Wadley plans to be active in helping develop the plan for McClain County.

"It won't only help us, it will help the citizens of McClain County and the people passing through McClain County," Wadley said.

Wadley responds to an average of seven emergencies a day. She hopes the Legislature responds quickly to the emergency ambulance companies are facing.

If the bill becomes law, then Oklahoma counties must develop an ambulance funding plan by the end of 2010.