Fewer ambulances on Oklahoma roads due to lack of funding

By: Paige Tebow Email
By: Paige Tebow Email

Earlier this year, an Oklahoma Governor's Task Force revealed the state's ambulance service is critical and unstable.

Local lawmakers are pushing to change that, but with one day left in the session, still no action has been taken.

Since 2000, more than 40 ambulance services have closed their doors because of a lack of funding.

It's the rural departments like those in our area that seem to get hit the hardest, and state officials say the money crunch is weakening their ability to provide for their citizens.

EMS officials are getting good at pinching pennies.

Johnston County Director Kenneth Powers has been in the business since 1983, but little has changed when it comes to funding.

"Things have changed, and the funding is not making up for that."

If diesel reaches $10 a gallon, these wheels will still roll because that's their job.

The money crunch isn't new to the area. Healdton EMS shut down in 1998, but Governor Henry finally took action in 2005, calling for a governor's task force. Their results came in this year, detailing a bleak picture.

The main issue: manpower.

It's hard to find quality workers willing to make $6.50 an hour with no pension or line of duty death benefits.

Legislation on the table in Oklahoma City would pump $4.5 million into the system, setting aside money for equipment, training, and recruitment.

The bill has past the senate, but Representative Paul Roan says he doesn't believe it will be heard on his side before the legislature adjourns Friday.

Local officials say there's always 2008.

Southern Oklahoma Ambulance Service Board of Directors are trying to get ahead of the game.

They're conducting a strategic plan to find ways to increase funding and reduce expenses over the next five years.


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