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Rural Meade Ambulance will end service after 25 years

F.Ganje - April 22, 2020

ENNING, SD – It’s not about the money.

Not for the 500 or so families living within a 1,200 square mile area in eastern and northeastern Meade County where as of April 30, will no longer be able to call the Rural Meade Ambulance Service to respond to a medical emergency.

Cindy Matt has been part of the Rural Meade Ambulance Service since its inception nearly 25 years ago.  In addition to being an EMT, she serves as a director, treasurer, and is a member of the Rural Meade Ambulance Service Board of Directors.

“We get bad wrecks out here.   To wait for someone else to come clear out here – it’s sad.  “But we’ve done pretty much what we can.” 

In 1996, Matt shares that Lloyd Erickson was instrumental in establishing the Rural Meade Ambulance Service.  Back then, volunteers for EMT training wasn’t a problem. 

“For the past four or five years, we  are short of EMT’s.  We started off with quite a few and now are down  to nine.  We eventually lose the younger ones to town where there’s a steady paycheck.” She continued,   “When people hear the service is staffed 24/7, they think it requires a full-time commitment.  That’s not the case. Schedule rotations mean volunteers are on call around five days a month. And getting others to cover a shift when needed  isn’t a problem in this area.”

There has been a recently formed rural ambulance district, covering a designated area, to be funded by households and businesses within its boundaries. Its formation was prompted by the City of Sturgis that said it could no longer fund ambulance calls outside of its city limits. 

The coverage area of the Rural Meade Ambulance Service isn’t within the newly formed district.  While households in the Enning area were not  supportive of a tax funded district, Matt says the funding structure of the Rural Meade Ambulance Service  has worked well  over the years.

“We send dues letters out to all the households.  And there’s memorial money,” she notes.  “ For equipment, we applied for and received grant money.  And donations from individuals, businesses and the Sturgis Rally Foundation, were all  a big part of helping us out every year.”  She adds, “It’s never been about the money. It’s about getting the volunteers.”

Matt says part of the problem is a misperception of what being an EMT requires.  “We say we are on call 24/7 and we are.  But that doesn’t mean volunteer EMT’s are on call 24/7. Schedules are such that a volunteer EMT is on call about five days a month.  And finding a fill-in when necessary, hasn’t been a problem.”

When the call went out from the rural service that will close at the end of this month,  asking other ambulance services to cover the area, two responded with a yes; the ambulance service in Faith, SD and LifeFlight out of Rapid City, SD. Both committed to responding – if they are available. 

And if not? “We have no answer for that,” says Matt.

After April 30th, she says people should continue calling 911. Sturgis Dispatch will then call the Faith Ambulance Service or LifeFlight.  

There’s no doubt there are a lot of miles going east, past Plainview, then north, almost to 212; we do the Opal area and the Elm Springs area, covering portions of Highway 34 and the New Underwood Road. In all that expanse, the Rural Meade Ambulance Service  logs around 25-28 calls a year. Not a big number.

“It might not seem like a lot of calls,” says Matt, “but it sure is if you’re the one calling 911.”

Matt welcomes phone calls from those who need information. Or who have suggestions.  Her number is 605-985-5583.

She shares the infrastructure of the Rural Meade Ambulance Service will remain in place for a time.  “With the exception of the possible sale of one of two ambulances, we are leaving things in place for one year as far as the ambulance services goes.  That includes the building and equipment.” She adds, “If there are those who want to become certified and take over, it will be ready for them.”

Listen to the complete interview ON DEMAND under Featured Stories.

Phone number: 605-347-4455
E-mail: [email protected]
Address: 1612 Junction Avenue, Suite #1
Sturgis, SD 57785