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Volunteerism affects Prescott EMS in more ways than one

PRESCOTT--Bill Dravis heard it for the first time in 1994 when he started with River Falls Ambulance.

Then-RF Chief Mike Stuttgen predicted volunteerism is on the decline, which is what ambulance departments throughout Pierce County and nationwide depend on for staffing.

Now, 20 years later, as director for Prescott Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Dravis has seen Stuttgen’s prediction come to fruition, forcing cities to take a second look on how they provide medical services.

“Volunteerism is at an all-time low,” Dravis said. “You can only ask people to do so much.”

He recalled 20 years ago, it took 110 hours of training to become certified as an Emergency Medical Technician. Today, the figure is up to 180, which doesn’t include the continuing education after becoming certified.

The result has seen staffing for Prescott EMS decrease over the years to today’s 32 members, which are made up of 24 volunteers, six part-time members, Dravis and Administrative Assistant Connie Hovel.

“In a perfect world,” Dravis explained, “that 24 would be 30.”


Staffing was one of the many issues discussed as the EMS Board commissioned Allina Health to do a study of the entire EMS Department earlier this year.

Allina Health was selected, Dravis said, as nearly 80 percent of patients Prescott EMS sends to hospitals are Allina-owned (River Falls and Hastings, Minn.) and they were a neutral and non-biased party.

“Are we doing things right?” Dravis said about questions they wanted answered. “Are we providing the best service to our citizens?”

The study highlights the staffing concern which led to the board’s decision last year to hire six part-time members, who work one 24-hour shift per week being partnered up with a scheduled volunteer.

Dravis said the board studied multiple options before moving forward with the current option.

“This has been working well,” he said. “It’s a comfort system. The volunteer and part-timer work well together.

“All my people are good people. Yes, we have had our difficulties over the years, but we have done the best we can.”

The study called the part-time hirings “bold and admirable” due to how it affects Prescott in other ways, mainly for revenues and expenses, as their salaries accounted for almost 40 percent of Prescott’s net revenue for 2013. The study calls on suggestions for the part-timers to work less to alleviate the bottom line, but, at the same time, it could very well be putting the mission of the EMS – patient care – at risk.

“I don’t see the board changing it,” Dravis concluded.

For more please read the July 2 print version of the Herald. 

Jason Schulte

Jason Schulte is a reporter for the New Richmond News since February 2015. Prior to that he spent eight years at the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth. His duties with the News will include covering news out of Hammond and Roberts along with action from St. Croix County court system. He lives in Roberts. 

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