Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rural ambulance services are fading in Oklahoma

Rural areas often have few options when it comes to emergency services, and in Oklahoma, a tough situation is getting worse. Over the past eight years, rural Oklahomans have lost about 50 ambulance services, and 13 communities have no dedicated ambulance service, reports Kim Archer of the Tulsa World.

"Rising gas costs, a higher number of uninsured patients and Medicare reimbursement cuts have fueled the downward spiral for services that play such a critical role for rural Oklahoma," Archer writes. "Many Oklahomans depend on rural ambulance service as their sole health-care provider. Each service has its own way of funding itself, from collecting fees to property taxes. All rely on Medicare reimbursements."

The reduction in ambulance services means those that remain are spread even more thin, leading to longer wait times for people in need of care. Rural ambulance services also face a problem in terms of recruiting paramedics or emergency medic technicians, since the services cannot offer benefits comparable to those given by police or fire departments. Oklahoma lawmakers have proposed legislation to address the ambulance crisis, but none has been enacted. These issues are far from limited to Oklahoma, so probably deserve coverage in other states. (Read more)

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