Rural Emergency Medical Services become an essential service in Utah
Sep 8, 2023, 9:54 PM | Updated: Sep 9, 2023, 11:03 am
PIUTE COUNTY, Utah — Whenever you call 911 for medical help, you expect someone will respond to wherever you are.
It wasn’t until recently, though, that Emergency Medical Services became an essential service in Utah the way law enforcement and fire are.
“The legislature changed that two years ago,” said Darin Bushman.
Bushman, who is a Piute County Commissioner, was part of the effort to make EMS an essential state service.
The Utah Legislature also decided this past session to move the Bureau of Emergency Medical Services from the Department of Health to the Department of Public Safety.
“They’re dispatched by Department of Public Safety personnel as a general rule of thumb,” said Bushman. “When they get on scene, who are they working with? Department of Public Safety personnel, law enforcement, highway patrol, and so it really made sense to be able to collaborate and work together with the teammates you’re on.”
Bushman was named the director of the new bureau of EMS.
Coming from a rural area helps him understand the challenges rural EMS providers are seeing more often.
“We have relied on volunteers for years and years and years. In the last ten years, that has dwindled immensely,” he said.
More than ever, Bushman says it has been difficult recruiting and keeping volunteers, which in rural areas is what the entire EMS team is often made up of.
“It is tough to put a crew together that’s on call 365, 24-7,” said Bushman.
Last year, the Utah State Legislature passed a bill allowing for EMS volunteers in rural areas to become eligible for health insurance coverage for themselves and their family.
It is one way to try to get and keep volunteers for what is now an essential state service.
Bushman knows more ideas are needed.
“I think the one thing the Department of Public Safety really wants to do is, they want to challenge everything EMS. Challenge the process, challenge how we do business in the state of Utah, and how we provide emergency medical services across the state,” said Bushman.
In order to become the director of the Bureau, Bushman had to resign as a Piute County Commissioner.
It takes effect October 1st.
He had been a Piute County Commissioner since 2013.
However, he feels he can still serve the citizens of Piute County by making sure when they call for medical help, someone will respond.
“I have loved every minute of serving the people of Piute County and being an EMT for 19 years,” he said. “I am excited and it is a big job moving to this position, but the thing is we have to make sure there is the personnel to respond.”