The EMT shortage in Superior is nothing new

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THE SUPERIOR Area Ambulance Service continues to struggle with EMT shortages. (Maggie Dresser/Mineral Independent)

When Anita Parkin was substitute teaching at Superior High School on a Wednesday morning, she got a call on her pager from the 911 dispatcher for a medical emergency. She either had to abandon her class and hurry to the Superior Area Ambulance Service or deny the call. She opted to deny the call, but only because her co-worker, Life Science teacher Beau Servo, decided he would abandon his class of three to take it. Parkin worked to consolidate the classes while Servo fled the school to respond to the medical emergency. “The other teachers help out, but we can’t get away sometimes,” Parkin said. Scenarios like this happen often in Superior, where there are around nine active Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) who regularly respond to emergencies. “There’s a core group of us, we all have pagers and it’s basically whoever answers,” Parkin said. Parkin has been an EMT for 43 years and is the vice chair of the Superior Area Ambulance Service. She said the ambulance always struggles with EMT shortages because they are all volunteers and most already have other jobs. She says volunteers are generally not as committed as paid EMTs. “Sometimes people get off work to go (on calls),” Parkin says. “It makes life interesting.” She says there are about six EMTs who always wear their pager. Ideally three EMT’s should respond to a call, but sometimes only two are able to go. The state realizes Superior is rural, so they allow fewer responders than they would in a more populated area. Parkin says the ambulance will sometimes pick up EMTs in St. Regis or the West End if they don’t have enough responders in Superior. “It’s kind of an interesting thing, I don’t know too many other places that do it this way,” Parkin said. Superior’s ambulance was affiliated with Superior Volunteer Fire Department, but they separated in the last 20 years. The Ambulance Service is a nonprofit and the county gives them two mills every year which equals to $10,000 each. This also qualifies the service for grants. “We always need a new ambulance or something, we just built a new ambulance station and we do all the maintenance and shoveling,” Parkin said. Parkin teaches an EMT class in Superior every few years, and she recently finished one where six students finished. 12 students were initially enrolled and half of them dropped out after realizing how much work it entailed. Parkin says Superior will only gain one EMT out of this class if she passes the exam. For now, the Superior Area Ambulance Service makes do with their EMT shortage. “If we don’t have EMTs and respond to calls, they’ll have to wait for somebody from Missoula or Plains,” Parkin said. “We’ve made sure that doesn’t happen.”

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