Wall ambulance service is a month away from shutting down

Emergency medical services are not considered “essential,” which means no county or city has to mandate that there is an ambulance available in an area
The Early evening news on KOTA Territory TV
Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 9:29 PM CST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Around 15 percent of the U.S. population lives in “rural” areas, and these people often encounter various barriers when accessing emergency services. The Mount Rushmore State is no different.

In Wall, the ambulance service is in danger of closing because of financial and staffing issues. This isn’t the first time this has happened across the Black Hills.

“Enning closed for some time. I believe they were closed for about two years. They opened back up last year under Faith ambulance. Bison closed for about a year, we were able to get them back up, but they’re both down to the bare minimum again,” said Sturgis ambulance director Shawn Fischer.

Now the Wall Ambulance Service is in danger of closing as well. With a board director for the service turning to the community and the state government for help.

“First of all, they need community support, they need government support, our state needs to recognize the importance of having emergency services in rural communities,” said Wall Ambulance Service board director Lilly Stone.

According to Fischer, there are currently two bills in the South Dakota Legislature that would help fund EMS like the one in Wall. The bills are Senate Bill 101 and House Bill 1007.

The reason for the possible closure of the ambulance service is a mixture of an increased number of EMS regulations and workforce challenges which require additional funding that the Wall City Council was not able to provide.

According to the Wall Ambulance Service, their annual budget is $427,275, with 35 percent of that coming from the tax district and 12 percent from the City of Wall annually. Then the remaining 53 percent of the expenses are covered by insurance payments, patient payments, donations, grants, and fundraisers. Stone added that the advanced funding already provided to them by the City of Wall would only keep them running through mid-March.

This potential closure of the ambulance service would cause worries for the area because it would have Rapid City potentially picking up the calls from that section due to closer ambulance services like Kadoka and Philip also struggling to find personnel.

“A lot of people don’t realize if Wall does end up closing, that affects every one of us that travels East River. If something happens, there is no ambulance service to respond. It would take them probably an hour to get there by the time dispatch was notified, they notified the ambulance, and they went en route,” said Fischer.

Wall Ambulance Service director of operations Lynn Riggs weighed on the area the service covers.

“Our area is mile marker 130 to 95. We also go three miles north of Scenic to the Cheyenne River to the North,” explained Riggs.

Touching on a barrier that RHIhub lists as one of the major reasons getting these services to people in rural areas is hard.

Riggs added calls they receive can often start from long distances in their coverage area, and taking this service away from someone who would potentially need it would be heartbreaking.

“We’re usually starting 30 miles from the town, so there is that necessity to get everything we can to them. We have heart attacks, we have massive car wrecks, so anything life-threatening the closer you are to some form of intervention is going to improve their chances of making it,” explained Riggs.

The Wall Ambulance Service board of directors has been looking for different ways to generate additional money to keep the services doors open, starting a GoFundMe to ask for donations. If you are interested in donating to their cause you can head to their GoFundMe by clicking the link below.

Wall Ambulance Service in danger of closing