By Bill Ward Rushville Republican
---- — In the late 1970s the federal and state government decided to make laws to have all emergency medical suppliers to adhere to certain minimum requirements. Prior to this set of laws there were no actual requirements in effect for any of the emergency medical people in the country. The bigger cities usually had ambulance services, but the rural areas were pretty much left out. The only ambulances available were the hearses from the local funeral home. These were the only vehicles available to transport someone to the hospital. Rushville had three ambulances: Todd’s, Moster’s and Wyatt Moore’s; all were hearses. Milroy and, I believe, Manila and Carthage also had funeral homes supplying transportation to those in need. There was no requirement for any of those on the hearses to have even rudimentary medical ability.
The government set up funding to help get this particular situation in effect. They also set up minimum requirements for ambulances and for those who would be called Emergency Medical Technicians. Rush County found itself with Todd showing interest in having at least one or two ambulances available to be used in the city and county. Raleigh and Milroy Fire Departments also showed interest in obtaining and operating ambulances in their territory. Both departments approached the Commissioners with a plan to do this. It was decided to allow Raleigh and Milroy to go ahead and apply for funds for ambulances and EMT courses.
I was involved and knew a young lady who worked with the state on these grants. She agreed to assist us in working on the grants. Verlin Custer from Raleigh and I from Milroy worked along with her to ask for a grant for an ambulance in Raleigh, Milroy and Rushville which was turned down. We reapplied and again were turned down. It seems Raleigh was turned down because of “destructive competition” with Todd’s and Carthage. After the turn down they voted to buy their own unit. Raleigh then obtained a loan from Farmers Home Administration and along with Milroy got their EMT’s certified. At this time, Milroy had had a rash of accidents on 3 and that section of road was described as a Killer Highway. So, for the third time we asked for an ambulance for Milroy only. This request was granted and the county was to own the ambulance. Milroy would run and supply it, expenses would be from the county budget and all funds generated would be returned to the county.
Raleigh, although the state felt they were not qualified for an ambulance, went ahead and purchased one on their own. At that time they approached the Commissioners to help with the expense of running that ambulance. It took time, but eventually the county did subsidize not only Milroy but Todd’s and Raleigh too. Milroy and Raleigh sent about 14 people each to a course held at Rush Memorial for EMT’s. This class was paid for by the county and in the end produced 28 newly minted EMT personnel for the two departments. A few years after the service started Raleigh purchased a second unit because of requests from RMH for transfers. This would allow their community to have an ambulance available at all times and also transfer for RMH.
Milroy purchased their ambulance and the total cost to the county was $2,000 for radios and other required equipment for the unit not covered by the grant. Raleigh purchased an ambulance and their supplies and got their unit certified around the same time Milroy did and the county was in the ambulance business. At the time, even the colors of the ambulance were mandated, but that rapidly went by the wayside as more and more fire departments got in the ambulance business. And those fire departments had their own ideas as to colors for ambulances as well as fire trucks.
Over time, the county did subsidize all county units and gave the unit in Milroy to the Township allowing them to retain the monies generated by that ambulance as well as what the county put in the pot. Todd and Raleigh got on the band wagon and for some time that was the ambulance system in the county. Todd’s eventually decided the ambulance business was not something they cared to remain in and that left Rushville and the center of the county in a quandary as far as coverage is concerned. Numerous different companies attempted to run this for the county and in various ways, but all in the end got out of the ambulance business in Rush County.
In 1988, Raleigh became an advanced service until December, 2009. At that time RMH withdrew their sponsorship of the advanced unit in Raleigh because they did not care to use RMH medical director and protocols. As a basic unit they needed only a doctor as a medical director and they had one who would be happy to do it. Milroy and Carthage were already basic and remained that way.
Rush Memorial Hospital was asked and rapidly accepted taking on the city and center part of the county ambulance coverage. Milroy and Raleigh and Carthage by now were also ambulance suppliers for Rush County and all were county funded to an extent.
So, this is just what brought about the situation we are now looking at as far as ambulance service is concerned. Milroy is having some problems but working them out. Raleigh is rolling right along. Carthage is working out fairly well also. All in all, the county in my mind at present has about as realistic a countywide system at the minimum cost to the taxpayer of any of our surrounding counties. I hope that whatever occurs in the future will continue to keep that system up and running.