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Ambulance receives $42,000 power lift cots in all three rigs

Lead Summary
Mavis Fodness

The Rock County Ambulance recently received power-lift cots capable of carrying 700 pounds.
The Stryker power load cots each cost $42,220, and there are three of them, one for each ambulance in the local fleet.
One is paid for by Rock County (with Covid grant funds) and the other two were bought with grants from the Luverne Area Community Foundation for a total investment of $124,278.
The equipment was ordered six months ago after Rock County Ambulance Service Program Coordinator Harlan VandeKieft and Sanford Luverne Clinic Administrator Tammy Loosbrock made the request to Rock County commissioners June 28.
“The power lifts have greatly — in the 34 years I have been doing this — improved patient safety, staff safety and staff longevity,” VandeKieft told commissioners. “But they are not cheap.”
Loosbrock said workforce shortages prompted the ambulance and clinic personnel to entice younger employees to work in emergency services.
“In the last six months, we have had five people step down from the ambulance (service),” she said. “That results in the primary rig being always available. The second rig is available only 50 percent of the time.”
Typically, two emergency medical technicians load patients in and out of the ambulance, lifting the cot and the patient into the vehicle.
Power cots allow loading and unloading to be done by one person at the press of a button.
“Anyone can pull the (power) cot in and out,” VandeKieft said. “As you get older, it is harder to lift.”
The power cot is operated by a push button.
“It can be a 400-pound patient and you just have to hold the button down and it just takes it and picks it up and puts it right into the back of the truck,” he said.
“A person then just pushes it in and out,”
Annually Rock County commissioners allocate money to each of the three ambulance services serving Rock County.
They include Sanford Luverne, Edgerton and Jasper. Edgerton and Jasper already have power lift cots and they’re interchangeable between ambulances services.
“In the case of mass casualties, we can switch cots and not worry about it,” VandeKieft said.
The power cot protects back safety and also stretches the ambulance’s employee and volunteer staff since legislation changes now require only one medical staff member to ride with patients.
In recent months, Luverne’s ambulance assisted the Adrian ambulance, which has been experiencing staff shortages that temporarily shut down the service.
Due to proximity, Rock County Ambulance is put on call.
“(They) notify both Worthington and Rock County that they are out of service and we are the guys picking up the Adrian service area,” VandeKieft said.
Rock County Ambulance averages around 1,250 calls a year, 40 percent of which are transfers.
“Transfers take us out of the rotation for about two hours to and from Sioux Falls,” VandeKieft said.
“In those times, we have seen the second truck being used roughly 118-120 times a year while the first truck is gone. There were three times that the third truck had to be used.”
A third ambulance was first used in 2020 to exclusively transfer coronavirus patients. Since then, a newer used ambulance was purchased and added to the fleet as a backup vehicle.
“Luverne is in a growth spurt in the way of call volumes,” VandeKieft said.
“We are getting older. Part of the call volumes show ages at 75-plus. People are staying at home longer because long-term care facilities are at capacity.”

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