If the city of Mabel is going to sustain its ambulance service, it's going to need more help.

During the regular meeting of the Mabel City Council last week, the council heard concerns from Neil Folstad and a number of other emergency medical service providers. Also attending was Holly Hamman of the Emergency Medical Services Board.

Folstad said personnel is stretched thin, and the group is having trouble with coverage during the day.

"The bad part is, there's no businesses in Mabel. Everyone works out of town," said Folstad.

Folstad explained he has been in discussions with Hamman who has helped them in calling for mutual aid.

"Now when we have day coverage blank spots, we call Fillmore County and tell them we don't have ambulance coverage for half a day," said Folstad.

"How long can you do that?" asked council member Sue Amunrud.

"By statute, you need to be staffed 24/7 with at least two personnel," said Hamman.

Hamman explained there are a lot of options for contracting and that Folstad and the Mabel Ambulance crew have been doing all the right things by being in contact with her organization.

"I understand your community really relies on this service and I hope your neighbors will help out," said Hamman.

Folstad said, from what he has been hearing, "everyone is having the same problems."

He said whenever he calls on a neighboring community to fill in, they respond, but he expressed concerns about the additional time needed for those crews to get to Mabel.

"When I call them, they are happy to respond, but Spring Grove is another 10 minutes to here. If they have to go to Harmony, that's 15 minutes," said Folstad.

Another member of the ambulance crew said, "If someone is having a stroke, you've got that golden hour. If it's local, we can be there within 10 minutes. With a stroke, 10 minutes can mean a life. It's huge."

Terry Torkelson, acting as the Mayor pro tem in the absence of Mayor Brian Street, said every small town is relying on their neighbors right now.

What's next?

Folstad suggested the city advertise that it's looking for EMTs (emergency medical technicians) and first responders and suggested setting up a course in the next few months.

There is some training reimbursement available through the state of Minnesota.

"There has been a suggestion that we advertise and set up a course starting Aug. 1," said Folstad.

"That might be just that little bit that trips someone's trigger," added Torkelson.

Folstad explained the training for EMTs is between 140 and 160 hours and meets two or three nights a week for two to three months, depending on the person teaching the class.

First responders attend 40 hours of training and registered nurses can test out of many of the skills or take a refresher course.

Folstad added Mabel used to require that emergency personnel live within a mile of town, but that is no longer the case.

"Now people can live further out and meet us at the scene," he said.

Hamman added Folstad has done a great job keeping in touch with the EMS Regulatory Board about the situation in Mabel.

"It's a nationwide issue," she said.

Anyone interested in finding out more about becoming a Mabel EMT or first responder should call the Mabel City Hall at (507) 493-5299.