When the Pettis County Ambulance District was formed in 2013, leaders projected the service would respond to 3,700 calls a year. Nine years later, that call volume has more than doubled and continues to move upward.
The number of combined calls in 2022 for two stations in Sedalia and one in Windsor stands at 7,744 through the end of October. EMS Chief Eric Dirck said while the Windsor numbers have remained steady, he’s seen a big increase in calls in Sedalia this past year.
“Anecdotally, it certainly seems there is more traffic in our service area over the last few years,” he said. “Typically, we see about a 4% increase in calls each year; however, August and September were record-breaking months for us for total call volume. I think the overall increase is likely due to local population changes and increased vehicle traffic.”
PCAD handles these calls from its three locations near downtown Sedalia, on Highway TT in eastern Pettis County, and in Windsor in southeast Pettis County. There are eight ambulances, three “ready-to-go” backup units and 71 employees.
Dirck said plans include selling a piece of property owned by the district, buying new property in southwest Sedalia and building a new station.
“Our goal is to keep response times at less than eight minutes in the city while ensuring a safe response,” he said. “That will be achieved by building strategically placed stations over time, starting with the southwest end of town. That side of Sedalia has seen a notable increase in population, as well as the most noticeable upward trend in call volume over the past several years. Our response times are still very good, but they do reflect greater difficulty getting through the city during peak traffic times.”
While there isn’t a projected construction start date, Dirck said they hope to have the land purchased and begin working on the third Sedalia station some time in 2023. The new station will have two ambulances.
“We intend to add one new unit based on call volume and relocate another unit from the headquarters location,” he said. “This will help distribute our resources more evenly throughout town.”
Most ambulance districts in Missouri are funded by a combination of property tax, sales tax and billing revenue. PCAD is funded by a one-half-cent sales tax and billing revenue only. Dirck said challenges impacting this growth include financial sustainability and staffing.
“In my opinion, our No. 1 challenge — and it has been for some time — is sustainability,” he said. “Medicare and insurance reimbursement rates have simply not kept up with health care costs over the last couple of decades. We’re seeing more and more EMS providers (hospital and pre-hospital) struggle to keep up.”
A national shortage of paramedics and emergency medical technicians, along with major delays in ambulance chassis production, rising equipment costs and medical supply shortages, also continue to challenge emergency care.
“While we face significant financial challenges in emergency services, there are many state and federal EMS organizations that lobby and coordinate with legislators and other stakeholders to help ensure we continue to provide high-quality and progressive services locally and throughout the country,” Dirck said. “What we do is critical to the health and well-being of the patients we serve, making sure they get the care they need in a timely manner from both PCAD and where we take them for advanced care. We are excited to celebrate our 10th anniversary next year and look forward to what the next 10 years will bring.”
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