CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids hospitals are offering financial awards to aid first responders’ efforts in rural parts of Eastern Iowa, a move that ultimately helps their patient outcomes, they say.
Mercy Medical Center announced the first Rural First Responder grants from its foundation earlier this month, awarded to six area first-responder agencies in Mercy’s service area.
These grants were awarded to help with equipment and education needs, said Melissa Cullum, director of community benefit at Mercy Medical.
Grants were given to:
• Blairstown Volunteer Ambulance
• Belle Plaine Area Ambulance
• Center Point Regional Ambulance Service
• North Benton Ambulance Service
• Monticello Police Department
• Urbana Police Department.
The ambulance services each received $2,000. They plan to purchase equipment such as trauma simulation equipment, bleeding control kits, a stair chair and a used ambulance.
The Monticello and Urbana police departments were each given an AED, or an automated external defibrillator, for a patrol car.
“For us, we felt like it’s important as part of our mission we’re equipping these rural communities where it takes longer to get to a hospital for a higher level of care that they have the access to the equipment, training and supplies they need when they need it,” Cullum said.
At UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital, meeting the mission was a similar motivator for its grant program also aimed at helping rural first responders.
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St. Luke’s Rural Health Care Grant program started in 1980 in the midst of the Farm Crisis.
St. Luke’s Foundation members recognized the strain on emergency services and established grants to aid them, said Tonya Arnold, director of grants and administration at St. Luke’s Foundation.
Arnold said the program has continued the effort, but evolved to also include a matching grant for a Benton County volunteer service that transports non-emergency patients for their appointments in Cedar Rapids.
For both hospital grant programs, applicants must demonstrate a financial need and a clear benefit for the award.
For their first year, Mercy officials said they would support awards up to $2,000 each, Cullum said.
Arnold said St. Luke’s has theirs capped at $5,000 per awardee.
Applications for St. Luke’s program was due earlier this week, and Arnold said they will announce the awards this summer.
Both hospital grant programs award providers in their service areas outside Linn County. Cullum said Mercy Medical opted to award these grants because it not only could enhance the health of those communities, but help those who eventually may find themselves in a Cedar Rapids hospital’s emergency department.
“We want the best possible patient outcomes for anyone that comes through our doors,” Cullum said. “If, by providing equipment or training in a pre-hospital environment that can increase their chances of survival or having that better outcome, I think it makes sense for us that way, too.”
According to the Rural Health Information Hub, access to emergency medical services is declining across the country, resulting in larger service areas and slower response times, in some cases.
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Concern over the state of rural health care is nothing new in Iowa, Arnold said, noting St. Luke’s grant program has existed for nearly four decades.
“Maybe small programs like this are making a small impact in helping, I don’t know,” Arnold said. “I know that when I talk to the recipients of our grants, they are so appreciative and so thankful.
“They will tell you time and time again, without this grant, they would not have many pieces of equipment that are in their ambulance.”
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