emergency medical services

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — The Finney County Emergency Medical Service department, with its staff of 23, is conserving its N95 masks and only using them when a patient is positive for COVID-19. Like large hospitals, U.S. cities and entire European countries, rural EMS workers aren’t shielded from the medical supply shortage. 

And that’s just one of the challenges rural EMS agencies across Kansas stare down as COVID-19 is being confirmed in their communities. They’re stretched thin, covering hundreds of miles, and seeing the ripple effects from the pandemic that’s shut down communities — something emergency plans hadn’t accounted for. 

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In Norton County, as in many parts of rural Kansas, the ambulance service is stretched thin.

Norton, with a population around 5,400 in the northwest corner of the state, has six full-time ambulance workers and nine volunteers to respond to all the 911 calls as well as transport patients from one hospital to another.

“Sometimes patients needing to be transferred are left waiting,” said Craig Sowards, Norton County EMS director.

Wikimedia Commons

In Norton County, as in many parts of rural Kansas, the ambulance service is stretched thin.

Norton, population 5,400 in the northwest corner of the state, has six full-time ambulance workers and nine volunteers to respond to all the 911 calls as well as transport patients from one hospital to another.

“Sometimes patients needing to be transfered are left waiting,” said Craig Sowards, Norton County EMS director.