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Longer routes and longer response times: Lt. Governor Simon creating new E.M.S. subcommittee to study rural service 

October 28, 2011
By Stephanie Tyrpak and Jared Roberts

CARBONDALE - Paramedics in Southern Illinois have to be ready to respond to almost any crisis, from car crashes to farming accidents. But after they respond to the call, payment for non-emergency services may be slow in arriving or never arrive.

Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon toured a facility in Carbondale Friday,- hoping to learn more about the issues rural services face.

The Jackson County Ambulance Service responds to emergencies, covering more than 500 square miles. The region stretches from Carbondale to the Mississippi River.

"In this day and age, just to have an issues because of your rural status seems kind of unbelievable," said ambulance service Director Dottie Miles.

However, those issues remain in Southern Illinois.

Even with facilities in Carbondale, Murphysboro, and Ava, response times to the farthest points of the county could take up to 25 minutes.

"We even have accidents involving farm equipment," said Miles. "We have accidents involving the boating industry. So where we're located here - coal mines, we have kind of the potential for everything."

One of the greatest issues rural emergency teams face is the cost and strain of resources caused by non-urgent calls. Miles estimates 25% of those calls cannot be billed under Medicaid, leaving behind $150,000 dollars in bad debt.

"Sometimes the transportation is someone without quite an emergency, but with a medical issue and an inability to get to the doctor for the care that they need," said Lt. Governor Sheila Simon.

Simon toured the county facility in Carbondale, hoping to take back one-on-one information to a new E.M.S. subcommittee.

"I want to make sure that living in rural Illinois doesn't mean living without access to good quality medical care," said Simon.

The subcommittee may look at moving around resources or finding new ideas to transport residents needing basic healthcare.

Simon is also looking at job requirements and how they impact volunteer emergency teams.