As Benton County Grows, So Does The Need For Ambulances

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
The Warsaw-Lincoln and Cole Camp Ambulance Services responded to over 4,000 calls last year in Benton and Southeast Pettis Counties. They also responded to several calls a month to provide mutual aid to other ambulance services when they needed assistance. Medical personnel on duty start treatment for many different medical needs while transporting patients to care centers. Ambulances are equipped with technology enabling staff to transmit EKGs to local cardiac centers ahead of the arrival of a patient, and provide other ALS (Advanced Life Support) services. Both ambulance services are tax supported and have personnel that are state certified and licensed EMTs and Paramedics.
The Warsaw-Lincoln Ambulance Service, located at 1206 Medic Drive in Warsaw, started operations in the 1970s as a funeral home based service. In November of 1974, the first fully equipped ambulance was put into service and the actual ambulance service was formed in 1978. The district now covers over 700 square miles and about 18,000 residents plus thousands of tourists. The district operates four fully-equipped ambulances, three which are staffed at all times from two bases. Nathan Burton, administrator, reports that the service made about 3,500 calls last year, and it has from 30 to 35 employees including paramedics, 10 who are nationally registered EMT-Ps. The staff also includes six certified instructors who provide CPR classes and First Responder classes to local organizations.
“We do training to keep our licenses current, and any other needs,” said Burton.
Burton said that the majority of calls the ambulance service responds to are medical issues, but there are also trauma calls. He reported in an April 2019 edition of the Benton County Enterprise that in the past five years, the ambulance personnel had also distributed 120 doses of NARCAN (a treatment for narcotic overdoses in emergency situations.) The staff members work on a 48 hours on/96 hours off schedule and have sleeping quarters as well as a kitchen at their duty station.
Cole Camp’s Ambulance Service began in December of 1981 when a petition was filed with the Benton County Office Clerk requesting the creation of “Cole Camp Community Ambulance District.” A vote passed and the ambulance district was formed with support from a property tax. In April 2008, a ½ cent sales tax was imposed allowing the district to hire paramedics and offer ALS services. The district covers about 320 square miles including the southeastern portion of Pettis County and most of the northern part of Benton County.
Bob Meuschke is administrator of the Cole Camp Ambulance Service, but also serves two days a week with the Warsaw-Lincoln Ambulance Service. The service has one staffed ambulance, and an extra ambulance that is available when the other is out of service – mainly during routine maintenance. 
 “We had around 585 calls last year,” said Meuschke. “Most of them were for medical reasons, because of our older community. There were three calls to Morgan County in December that we assisted with because of our mutual aid agreement. We help each other out and all EMS service people get along very well. We have the same medical director at Cole Camp and Warsaw-Lincoln Ambulance Service, and are pretty progressive groups.”
Meuschke said that Cole Camp has 12 part-time EMTs and Paramedics, and six full timers. Most of the training is completed online through the Emergency Medical Services Academy. Some courses include Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support, and other continuing education classes. Since there is only one ambulance crew on duty at a time, composed of just two people, online training serves the ambulance service best. However, from time to time bigger training classes are offered and a room is opened up, hosting others who want to attend.
Meuschke explained that the normal response to a call is to transport a patient to the closest, appropriate facility. That may mean transporting to a facility that provides cardiac, trauma or stroke services. 
“When a call to 911 is made, first responders from local Fire Protection Districts can be the first to appear on the scene,” said Meuschke. “Deer Creek and Lakeview Heights Fire Protection Districts have very good first response to 911 calls. Their volunteer staff start the initial process of tending to a person’s medical needs. They may only be providing oxygen, taking blood pressure or just holding someone’s hand until the ambulance arrives. Once the ambulance arrives, it provides the actual transport to a medical facility.”
Meuschke said that billing of patients who are transported can be taken care of in several ways. There is an in-district rate for those who pay property taxes in the ambulance service district, and if a patient wants to call the ambulance service after the fact, it is possible to have the cost of the service reduced to the Medicare rate.
“We don’t go after anybody for payment,” said Meuschke. “If someone can only pay $5 a month, that is okay. We don’t send collectors after anyone.”
Meuschke was asked about services provided to someone who does not need to be transported by ambulance. He said that if someone was in need of something like a blood pressure check, he or she could go to the Cole Camp Ambulance Service. However, he said that there is always a chance that the staff may be out on a call.  In that case, a person with an emergency could call 911 and have first responders report to the person’s home to take blood pressure, There is no charge unless a transport is involved.
Routine blood checks are available at Bothwell Health Center – Truman Lake by appointment, and are a routine part of check in when seeing a family doctor or nurse-practioner. J & D Pharmacy also offers free blood pressure checks for walk-ins, as does the Benton County Health Department.