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Ellsworth Ambulance service marks 10 years as paramedic unit

Jessica Brickner and Kris Herold of the Ellsworth Ambulance Service held plaques declaring the designation of the service as a paramedic unit 10 years ago. (Herald photo by Bill Kirk)

The Ellsworth Ambulance Service (EAS) has had a varied history, including few developments as significant as the service’s designation as a paramedic unit a decade ago.

In March of 2004, the service achieved the status of having its first volunteer paramedic, according to information from Director Kris Herold and Jessica Brickner of EAS. The local advancement to paramedic level was one of the first for rural ambulances in Wisconsin and was the first in Pierce County.

“(Former Director) Bill Brookshaw was a leading proponent for changing the legislation,” Herold said Friday about how rural services became eligible for the paramedic designation.

Brookshaw had attended numerous meetings where he heard “can’t do it” when the paramedic status in rural areas was discussed, Herold said. The sticking point was a requirement there be two paramedics on board an ambulance for each run. Although rural representatives argued this wasn’t practical in their situations, those from units in major metropolitan areas showed resistance.

Eventually, with the help of State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf and former State Rep. Kitty Rhoades, an agreement was reached and accepted by the parties, he said. This paved the way for Ellsworth to advance, second statewide (after Ashland, Brickner said) and first in this area, followed by Hudson, New Richmond and River Falls.

“I was at a meeting yesterday and many services in rural areas are paramedic services now,” Herold said.

“Para” in their title refers to “beside doctor” and the position is an outgrowth of the Vietnam War, according to EAS information. They were present in the field during that war; findings showed a better survival rate was being realized there than back home, so the concept caught on in the U.S.

The development for the local service meant medications could be dispensed in the ambulance, advanced procedures such as advanced airway management could be conducted, surgical measures such as installing a trachea could be done and there were more options for cardiac cases, Herold said.

For more please read the March 19 print version of the Herald. 

Bill Kirk

Bill Kirk was editor of the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth, from 1988 to February, 2015 and is now on staff as a reporter. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He previously worked in the media distribution department at the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus and is past editor of The Tri-County News in Osseo, Wisconsin.

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