SHEFFIELD, IOWA — Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg is pitching a plan he likens to “Uber for EMS” to address the state’s worsening problems with rural ambulance service. Rather than provide for more ambulances or drivers, Gregg’s immediate goal is to find a community which would serve as a pilot project.

“The easiest way to describe this is as Uber for EMS, helping us to crowd source volunteers,”said Gregg. “Uber not in the sense that we’re transporting folks, no, this is about locating and identifying a nearby trained responder who can be the first person to respond and stabilize somebody until the ambulance comes.”

Gregg got the idea while on a trade mission to Israel. He said in the City of Jerusalem, they have cut the medical response time down to around 90 seconds. Across the nation, the response time there is three minutes.

Gregg spoke to a gathering of medical first responders, and community leaders from across northern Iowa, at Sukup Manufacturing, in Sheffield.Some liked the idea, but are already struggling with finding volunteers.

“It is tough we can have 25 members on our department, right now we’re sitting at 15,” said Bob Rush, Fire Chief in the town of Manly. I’m only have six that are EMS certified. We have pilot programs. We have a cadet program to get high school age volunteers get them active in the program, and it’s his tough this day and age to get people to volunteer their time.” 

Keokuk City Manager  Cole O’Donnell, was briefed by the Lt. Governor last week on the plan. Lee County and Keokuk has had a shortage of ambulance coverage in the county since the hospital in Keokuk closed last fall. O’Donnell said the plan offered by Gregg would not work in the City of Keokuk.

 “For Keokuk proper, because our firefighters are EMT’s respond to all emergency calls,” said O’Donnell. “In the rural areas it might be something to somebody could use.”

Lt. Governor Gregg understands the volunteer shortage in rural Iowa. He’s looking for one community to take on this model, as a pilot project.

“I think the most important thing we can do is to identify a community that gets the concept and is willing to lean in and try something new,” said Gregg in an interview. “To find new volunteers who can get involved in a new and different way. Using technology and a new way to identify the closest people to an emergency, who can receive drop everything and respond.”

Under the proposal the responders would use their own vehicle, but be equipped with the same equipment on an ambulance, but no stretcher, they would not transport a patient. They would also be given training to help do the task on a volunteer basis.