Killdeer Ambulance numbers keep up dramatic climb

Killdeer Ambulance responds to an emergency call during a recent snowstorm in Killdeer. The service has seen a dramatic rise in the number of service calls in recent years to more than 620 in 2018. It uses paid staff and volunteers to cover the Dunn County area. Herald photo / Brad Mosher

The story of Killdeer is in the numbers, especially when it comes to local ambulance service.

Before the end of 2018, the Killdeer Ambulance had made more more than 620 runs.

By Brad Mosher

The Herald

Anne Hafner, the manager of the ambulance service, has seen a dramatic increase in the number of calls the crews have responded to in recent years.

“I started towards the end of 2012. In 2012, we had 288 runs. In 2009, it was about 150 runs.

“That is a big change in 10 years,” she said, noting the total for 2018.

There has been some fluctuation in the size of the area the Killdeer Ambulance serves, the manager said.

“it got bigger for a little while when Mandaree Ambulance started about three years ago,” she added. “We gave over that service area that was north of the river. But, it is basically the same as it was in 2009.”

The current service area for Killdeer Ambulance includes parts of McKenzie and Billings counties, because other services are so much further away, she explained.

Killdeer provides paramedics to Mandaree when they are needed because they only have EMT service in that area, Hafner added.

The service area that Killdeer ambulance covers is not restricted by the county borders, she explained.

The numbers have continued to climb, she added. “Some of it is oil, but not all of it. Lately, oil has been not as busy as they were five years ago.

“But for us, as an ambulance service, it has never slowed down.

“We had one year – the year before last – where we didn’t grow. In 2014, we had about 565 (calls). Then, the next year, we had five or 10 less calls. But in the scheme of 500, five or 10 less isn’t really that many,” she explained. Last year (2017), we had more and this year we have had even more. We have just steadily grown.

“The oil this year (2018) hasn’t contributed that much additionally,” she said. It is in the non-oil related sector that has really picked up lately, she added.

“We have a new population that we didn’t have before. But people also do not want to drive themselves to the hospitals as much anymore as they used to,” she said. “I think a lot of it is education. If we help you quicker with a heart attack or a stroke, you have a better chance of survival. People want that kind of care now.”

Over time, there have been some changes in what the ambulance service offers, Hafner said.

“It had gotten so busy from the oil and the traffic and everything when I started and the volunteers were  doing it in their extra time. It was all volunteers when I started. It got to where they didn’t have any extra time any more,” she added.

The service has since gone from being all-volunteer to being about half volunteer currently. “When we have paid staff here, we have them here 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That takes the stress off the volunteers.”

With the help of full-time employees, the ambulance service has been able to add to what it can offer the community, Hafner said. That allows the service to do blood pressure screenings and work with the local nursing home. “We can do CPR classes and community health outreach and by having the full-time people, we have been able to increase the things we can do for the community,” she explained. “The community seems to like it to me. We have had a really good response.”

So far, the service is keeping up with the growth pretty well, Hafner said.

Right now, she relishes the community support the service has. “They are very interested in us succeeding. They are very supportive of us and that positive attitude from our community transfers to our board of directors,” she said. The board is made up of volunteers, who are elected at the annual meeting. She praised the board as being very forward-thinking and open-minded. “They are very attuned to giving the community what they think it wants and needs.”

Hafner also praised the county commissioners for their support.

“Finding funds is very difficult. We do get insurance money from people who have insurance, but the way the insurance companies pay is very frustrating,” she said. To make up the difference, Hafner says she finds a lot of grants and the county commission has been very supportive. “That has allowed us to not have to go back and increase our mill levy. The county has been able to assist us with other funds that have come in. The state is pretty supportive with grants, but those are getting harder to get.

“Finances are probably my biggest concern over the next five years. We have an excellent core of medical providers here and really good volunteers,” she explained.

“So, I am not really worried about the staffing. I am really worried about the funding and how we are going to keep going.”

According to Hafner, the oil impact grants had a huge effect. “I would say that we have gotten close to $1 million since I have been here in oil and PAC grants, which was huge. This building we are in was built entirely with grant funds. It is an $805,000 building.”

In an effort to continue being cost-effective, Hafner said that they will soon send in a 2014 vehicle for a remount to extend its usable life. “We have put more than 100,000 miles on it since we have put it in use. So, in the next year, we are going to have to find $100,000. Instead of buying a new one, we are going to refit that one.

“We are going to be asking for some help. That is going to be our next big expense,” she added. While it is being refitted, it will also not be serving the Killdeer community for approximately three to six months.

“Once we start hitting 100,000 miles, we start planning for a replacement and expect to have that vehicle refitted or replaced before it hits 150,000 miles. If we trade it in after 150,000 miles, there is a noticeable difference in what we get back out of that truck.”

The mileage can add up quickly in and around Killdeer, she said. “If we take a local call, we are a long way from the hospital. So, we put a lot more miles on a truck than most of the places do.”

Hafner said recently because of the growth there have been times that all of the vehicles have been out responding to calls. “That is happening more and more often now.”

Even with the increase load and traffic, the service has gotten its response time down to about two minutes. “It used to be about 10 minutes. “That is a big change in how fast we can get care to somebody. It is how fast we can get out the door. The state measures that. We report every run we do.”

According to Hafner, the state requires all ‘chute’ times to be 10 minutes or less for the unit to leave the building.

Hafner said the service responds to calls from dispatch in Bismarck. “But they don’t really know what we are dealing with out here. Western North Dakota is very busy for them. They’ll tell what well…. the so-and-so well… we don’t know where that is unless give us the street. A lot of these wells don’t have addresses.

“We even have streets in this county that do not have street signs. We have people in this county that do not have their house numbers.

“Those are big frustrations,” she added, noting that people living in Killdeer need to make sure the house number is visible from the street.

“Finding places can be very difficult. We have been very lucky that the deputies are going on some of our runs and the deputies will lead us in,” she said. Sometimes, we’ll follow the fire department to a scene because some of them work in the oilfields and they are familiar with the area.

“We need to start getting street signs up everywhere and we need to get people putting up house numbers on their houses,” Hafner explained.

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