Just 35 miles North of Lubbock, residents in and around the town of Hale Center are without ambulance service. NewsChannel 11's Suleika Acosta spent the day there and brings us what she found.
Lack of funding forced Hale Center EMS board of directors to shut down emergency and non-emergency service last week. That means residents are depending on surrounding communities to send an ambulance in an emergency. Aaron Graham, EMS Director, tells us they can't afford the rising cost of gas and operation expenses to offer services for residents.
People in Hale Center won't be hearing the sound of an ambulance for a while. For the time being, lack of funding has put Hale Center EMS out of service. "An ambulance service is essential and it's definitely an essential part every community needs," says Graham.
But the service just wasn't cutting it financially. Graham tells us they need about $10,000 a month to operate, not including payroll costs. But Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements plus billing were only bringing in about $5,000 a month. "It makes me very nervous knowing that the care for these people is so far away," he says.
Hale Center EMS serves about 3,000 people in the area but at least for the next few weeks, those residents will have to depend on services from Lubbock, Plainview and Abernathy. "You're looking at a minimum of 15 minutes to get an ambulance on the scene," says Graham.
EMS in Hale Center usually responds to calls within two minutes and in an emergency situation when seconds count - residents say they are worried the delay could mean the difference between life and death. "We probably should do something to get it back, we need service around here," says Resident Conchita Flores.
"We've been supporting and doing everything we can to support EMS because we need it here," says Ronnie Sharrod, another resident.
The city and county have stepped in to help but it's still not enough. Now, the service is working on getting grants and more donations from the community. "The sooner we get the cash flow, the sooner we can get the emergency care people need," adds Graham.
The EMS is suspended for about 23 more days. A Lubbock ambulance service has already responded to four calls there since EMS shut down last Wednesday.
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