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Galena EMS seeks status waiver: Ambulance board learns about the COVID impact on the volunteer service


GALENA–Board president Ben Petitgout informed the Galena EMS board, during a meeting Thursday, Oct. 22, that the district has applied for a waiver with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to provide advance life support.

On Feb. 6, 2018, Galena EMS was forced to move from an intermediate life support system to a basic life support system.

According to Petitgout, that status is based on an arbitrary number of people in the geographic area which indicates that the agency should be a paid service.

Petitgout advised the board that he and EMS coordinator Bill Bingham met with officials from MercyHealth in Rockford, the affiliate of the Galena EMS.

Bingham and Petitgout asked for a waiver for the agency’s current alternate rural status.

Petitgout said the agency is looking into having paramedics again and that a volunteer service may not be sustainable for the long-term future of the organization.

Bingham noted this is a priority for the service due to call volume and needs of the community.

“It is imperative for our service that we can serve as an organization in which all medical levels are within our reach, including paramedic,” said Bingham. “The sustainability of this organization depends on what this agency will look like in five years.”


COVID impact

Galena EMS has dealt with several confirmed COVID patients on recent calls and EMTs and EMRs continue to use full personal protective equipment (PPE) on every call.

“It is now routine that some of our members have quarantined and have been tested resulting from potential exposure,” said Bingham. “We have also noticed that this has a significant impact on the number of members who take calls. We have had five members that dropped off the call roster since April.”

Bingham said that having one or two of the regular EMTs not available creates scheduling concerns. He will continue to remain on alert to these situations.

Another impact of COVID on Galena EMS is that the district has not been able to offer in-house continuing education.

Those classes have gone virtual since the start of the pandemic. Bingham said this would be reevaluated in December.

Galena EMS also purchased disinfectant sprayers for the ambulances and during a trial period learned that the product works well.

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The organization is considering purchasing a second sprayer.


Seat belt covers

Laura Moyer, creative director at The Workshop, talked to the board about a new product that would benefit Workshop consumers and families of those with special needs children.

Moyer’s plan is to offer one free seat belt cover to all Jo Daviess County residents who have special needs with the cost of $10 covered by donations.

Moyer is getting order forms to schools in the county and on social media to spread the word about the program.

The Galena Area EMS Board decided to match the Galena Fire Department’s $500 donation.


Other business

The board also:

•thanked Ruth Foley for the CPR classes she provided on five days last month.

Students of the class included staff members from Prairie Ridge as well as new EMS members.

•learned that Galena EMS received $250 from the Illinois Public Risk Fund.

•learned that Galena EMS responded to 51 calls during the first 22 days of October and that total calls were at 578 for the year.

•approved sexual harassment prevention training on an annual basis.

•approved an upgrade to the department’s security cameras.

The cost to install, program and test the new system is $2,335.