Dupo EMS milestone muted by struggles

Pictured, from left, are Dupo EMS paramedic John Mogg, EMT Sharon Davis and Village of Dupo Trustee Kerry Foster.

Dupo EMS is celebrating 50 years of service to the community in 2022, but it has never been in a worse position.

That’s according to Kerry Foster, village trustee and former member of the Dupo Fire Department.

“We’re in a crisis,” Foster said. “There’s no other way to put it. We’re in a manpower crisis.”

The EMS department simply doesn’t have the staff to cover the community’s needs on its own.

Present staff are only able to cover evening shifts from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays. Ambulance responses during other shifts all come from outside Dupo – primarily through MedStar Health.

In the current situation, Dupo residents can expect an ambulance to arrive when called, but it might arrive later than would an ambulance coming directly from Dupo EMS.

“We want to make sure the community knows that if they call for an ambulance, they’ll get one,” Foster stressed.

EMS representatives said they would need a significant increase in staffing in order to cover every shift through the week without help from MedStar.

“We’d need at least five more EMTs and five more paramedics,” Foster said. “That’s a goal to shoot for. That’s a minimum goal to shoot for. That would cover everything. That would cover every day.”

Bob Smitt, treasurer of the Dupo Fire Protection District, explained that the shortage has come predominantly from COVID-19, which has put a strain on emergency services across the country.

“I mean, it’s no secret,” Smitt said. “COVID’s the one that started taxing this. I mean, again, it’s not just here, it’s everywhere. It was the increased call volume.”

There are a number of problems compounding the department’s currently short staffing, not the least of which is lack of funds. Foster said that, aside from tightening spending even more than it already has, there’s very little room to expand current funds.

Recruitment is currently the biggest issue for Dupo EMS staffing. Foster said the department has tried to get local volunteers to assist with the workload, but given all the responsibilities, most people they’ve spoken with simply aren’t interested in an unpaid position.

Outside help is also difficult to attract and maintain given the high responsibility, time demand and low available pay.

“We don’t pay a lot to bring in somebody from out of town to come sit here at the firehouse,” Foster said “For that amount of money, they just don’t wanna do it. People don’t wanna do that. If we get more people in town, because they’ve got pagers, they can stay home or stay here in town and do what they want to do in town and be available.”

Local help is, ultimately, what Dupo EMS needs, according to Foster and others at the station. For a small community like Dupo, help from individuals within the community is the best hope for getting the department back to covering its full weekly shifts alone.

Foster said local nurses and others with medical experience in the community would be a big help.

“Serve your community,” Foster said. “Help your neighbor. Give some time to help your neighbor. Because that’s what we are. We’re a small community and, not as much anymore, people know people in the community, and if this person needs help we need somebody to help them. And you could be that person.”

A newly formed EMS committee  consists of John Mogg, Chase Putnam, Sharon Davis and Kimi Kuni.  They are considering hosting a first responder and EMT classes. If interested, email checkersfire@yahoo.com.

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