In any medical emergency situation, time is of the essence, but when the closest hospital with an emergency room is 47 miles away, it could be a matter of life or death.
Halsey’s population can double or almost triple when young campers arrive for the Nebraska State 4-H summer camp.
According to Andy Larson, an extension educator at the Nebraska State 4-H camp, the staff recognizes that Halsey is limited when it comes to emergency medical assistance. All members of the staff are CPR and first-aid certified and are trained to be ready for any situation.
However, if a more serious emergency occurs, the staff will always call 911. If more immediate service is needed, the forest service will respond to the call as the camp is located in Halsey National Forest.
“The forest service is trained to be the first responder so they would be able to help with that initial response to the situation. If needed, they would be able to manage the situation until the ambulance arrived,” Larson said.
A response could take up to 45 minutes for an ambulance to arrive and 25 minutes for the forest service to arrive.
Loren Eaton, a recreation specialist at the forest service, said he has noticed a decline in emergency medical technicians in western Nebraska.
According to UNMC, the numbers and rates of emergency medical technicians has decreased by 4.7 percent in the past two years.
“People have busier lives and are involved in a lot more activities than they used to be. They do not have the time to commit to being an EMT,” Eaton said.
Eaton also touched on how the forest service does have medical equipment to treat patients, but it is limited.
“The forest service does not own equipment to go out and treat those patients,” Eaton said. The trauma kits that the EMTs have are provided by the ambulance service rather than the forest service.
Larson and Eaton said the next step in fixing this issue is raising awareness and reaching out for support.
“Organizations like us need to be aware of it, keep the conversation going and make it a priority to everyone that is involved,” Larson said.
Eaton agreed and talked about the importance of volunteers.
“The hard part is getting volunteers,” Eaton said. “We don’t have the population and we don’t have a volunteer base.”
According to Eaton, the EMTs who volunteer throughout small towns in Nebraska are working hard, and he hopes that people see the time and dedication they put in for the safety of their communities.
“It’s a close family and we share hardships together,” he said. “Sometimes you see some bad calls. Other times you get lucky and deliver a baby and then have something positive to share.”