Ever since the Anamosa hospital took over the running of the Anamosa Area Ambulance Service, it has lost money. CEO Eric Briesemeister approached the Anamosa City Council to see about getting support to help cover the service’s losses.
The service runs one 24/7 ambulance and another ambulance from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. From 2017-2019, the service has averaged a loss of around $403,000. The major reason behind the growing gulf between the revenues are that the calls don’t cover expenses that continue to rise. Services have been forced to transition from a volunteer service to a full-time service with paid staff.
“Unfortunately, in rural communities, there just isn’t enough call volume to keep up with the expenses,” Briesemeister said, with the service averaging about 1,300 calls per year.
The losses aren’t a new phenomenon, as the service has been in the red ever since the hospital took over the service. Another hurdle for the service is that ambulance services aren’t considered an “essential service” in the state of Iowa, meaning there’s no required funding.
Specifically, in the funding request, Briesemeister was looking for assistance, not only from Anamosa, but other municipalities as well, in covering the expense gap for 911 calls. Those calls account for 51% of the total calls, which would make their portion of the losses approximately $205,558 on average. By averaging call percentage and population percentage, Anamosa’s portion of that would be just shy of $98,000.
“I realize that’s a big dollar amount,” Briesemeister said. “If you can’t fund that total amount, something maybe working towards that. Anything that you could do would certainly be appreciated.
The only thing the city currently pays for when it comes to the service is the communication fee, which is set to increase more than triple over the next few years using a similar formula.
The ambulance service’s request would be an annual one, recalculating the ask based on the gap and population and call percentages.
The hospital was by no means looking at dropping the service and was getting by currently, but Briesemeister said he was trying to get out ahead of things and trying to address the issue before hard decisions had to be made.
“I wanted to come to you before it became critical,” he said.
No action was taken by the city council members, who are in the middle of their budget process, but they said they would take the funding request under consideration.