EMS access dwindles in rural America

Ambulance deserts affect at least 4.5 million people, and more are likely to appear as the EMS industry decays in rural communities, The Wall Street Journal reported Nov. 16. 

Rural hospitals are in crisis mode: Since 2005, 104 rural hospitals have closed — 37 of which have been since 2020 — and another 89 facilities no longer provide inpatient services. Healthcare facilities in rural areas are also trimming labor and delivery services because of low Medicaid reimbursements, rising costs and staff shortage woes.

Getting to this sparse network of hospitals is becoming more difficult, emergency medical workers told the Journal, because pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic and workforce issues have strained rural EMS services. The industry is also mainly unprofitable, and potential employees aren't keen to train for hundreds of hours for a low-paying or unpaid job. 

In the last two years, more than 55 ambulance providers have shuttered, according to the American Ambulance Association and the Academy of International Mobile Healthcare Integration.

The demographic of people aged 65 and older is increasing as fewer volunteers step up in rural populations, where in some areas, it takes more than an hour to see an ambulance. 

"I think that the majority of the American people do not understand how different it is out there," Andy Gienapp, deputy executive director of the National Association of State EMS Officials, told the Journal.


Copyright © 2023 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars