Common Sense with Dominick Bonny – Unsung Heroes

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Join host Dominick Bonny and he takes a look at how EMS providers have taken on a greater role in preventative healthcare in rural Eastern Washington since the COVID-19 pandemic, and asks the question: Do we need funding reform for EMS in our state? Also highlighted is the Small Miracles summer lunch program.

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Common Sense with Dominick Bonny – Unsung Heroes Transcript and Sources

PART ONE

Hello and welcome to Common Sense, I’m Dominick Bonny and in this episode we’re going to highlight some unsung heroes of the pandemic: EMS, or emergency medical services professionals in our region. Recently I produced a short documentary featuring EMS providers. It seems like ancient history now, after everything we have gone through in the last year or so, but in the spring of 2020 we were all warned to avoid seeking medical attention at our nearest hospital emergency room because officials were worried about overloading healthcare systems that were gearing up for worst-case scenarios when it came to the impact of COVID-19. So all of a sudden, EMS providers, who get paid to take people to the hospital, had no clear healthcare mission and no solid revenue stream during what was shaping up to be an historic healthcare crisis. But luckily, the folks at the North Central Accountable Community of Health had stepped up in 2019 and funded a pilot program to help compensate EMS providers for providing basic preventative health care and wellness checks on some of the most vulnerable people in North Central Washington, from Omak and Okanogan to Methow and Twisp to Chelan, Leavenworth and the lower Wenatchee Valley. It was a pilot program perfectly crafted for a world changed by COVID. Not only did EMS professionals check up on shut ins and the elderly, but they also provided important connections to the outside world to folks who feared they were COVID positive and had to quarantine before there were enough tests to go around. Recently, the folks at the NCACH commissioned my company to produce a short documentary to capture and showcase how EMS providers adapted to serve their communities during the COVID crisis and ask the question: did we learn lessons and make changes that might benefit folks in rural America going forward? It’s no secret that there is a rural-urban divide in the quality and access to healthcare. Changing the way we utilize and compensate EMS providers might be an effective strategy in providing better healthcare to rural Americans. Let’s take a look.

EMS doc

There has been so much going on since early 2020 that it’s easy to overlook unsung heroes like EMS professionals, who know their communities, endeavor to know who needs the most help and work to get those folks that help. After the break we’re going to ask is there a better approach to the role EMS plays in healthcare systems in rural America? And we’ll check in with Linda Belton with Small Miracles and learn about how you can help make sure no kid in our community goes hungry this summer. 

PART TWO

Hello and welcome back. Before the break we took a deep dive into the world of EMS providers and learned about how they changed and adapted to meet the needs of the communities they serve in North Central Washington, even though the funding structure they operate under currently means they probably weren’t compensated completely for going above and beyond the call of duty. In Methow, Justin Porter and the Aero Methow crew helped a man learn how to properly clean his catheter and avoid expensive ER visits after developing easily-preventable urinary tract infections. In Plain and Lake Wenatchee Mike Pirotto and his crew pick up folks’ prescriptions if need be, and in the winter they shovel old folks’ walk and driveways so they get to medical appointments and pick up their prescriptions and other necessities. They also work in tandem with non-profits like Upper Valley MEND to make sure needs are met in their region. In Lake Chelan, Ray Eickmeyer and his team devoted themselves to vaccine logistics and have delivered and administered vaccines to one of the most remote communities in the lower 48 states, Stehikin. If you’re looking for examples of EMS providers stepping up and serving their communities in out of the box ways, even though that might not be the best thing for their business’ bottom lines, you don’t have to look far. But why don’t we consider EMS to be a part of our preventative healthcare system? They have the ability to reach people in remote areas and assess individual needs without those individuals coming into a doctors’ office or emergency room. What’s more, they have the ability to assess patients’ living situations and spot issues that might lead to big problems in the future – like a dangerous staircase that could lead to an old lady falling and breaking her hip or an outdated and faulty HVAC or heating system that could lead to someone suffering heat stroke in the summer or freezing in the winter. They’ll do well checks, they’ll check folks’ blood pressure, and they’ll even pick up prescriptions! Yet the business model is such that their payday only really comes when they transport a patient to the ER, and by the time you’re dealing with an emergency medical situation it’s more often than not an irreversible situation. What if we changed the way we compensate EMS providers to promote their role in preventative healthcare and adequately compensate them for doing so? How many life-threatening emergencies could be avoided if we used the respect they’ve earned and relationships they’ve built in the rural communities they serve to promote preventative healthcare? How many ER trips could be avoided with better preventative care? Granted, this isn’t a one size fits all solution. The needs of patients in rural America and the needs of patients in urban America are vastly different – and maybe that’s why we here in rural America need to communicate our needs and advocate for change more assertively. Both in Olympia and the hallowed halls of our US Congress. If you’d like to voice your opinion and let our state legislators know that we need to rethink EMS services in rural Washington, contact state senator Brad Hawkins and both of our 12th district representatives Keith Goehner and Mike Steele using this contact information, which you can also find in the source notes in the transcript of this episode on NCWlife dot com. Just go to the homepage of NCWlife’s website and find the full episodes tab up top, then scroll down to and find Common Sense with Dominick Bonny. This is episode 36. Before I leave you, I’d like to highlight another excellent organization with a mission I think we can all get behind no matter what your political persuasion or point of view – and that’s making sure that no child goes hungry in our region. Small Miracles is a non-profit that has done the lord’s work in the greater Wenatchee area and over the last decade they have grown to meet a great need by providing free and nutritious mid-day meals to children who qualify for the federal free and reduced lunch program during the school year but who might suffer from the lack of access to those meals during the summer. For the last ten years Linda Belton, the director of Small Miracles, has been the logistical mastermind who organizes a small army of volunteers to pick up and deliver and then hand out nutritious sack lunches to children in parks in Wenatchee, East Wenatchee and Cashmere. Because of Linda and her crew of volunteers over the last decade an untold number of kids in this community haven’t had to open their fridges and pantries in the summer and wonder what they were going to eat for lunch. As a former latchkey kid raised by a single mother who had to rifle around a barren fridge and cupboards more times than I’d like to admit, anyone who looks out for the wellbeing and physical needs of children rise to a status near sainthood in my estimation. But Linda and Small Miracles need help. And that’s where you and I come in. I met up with Linda recently to talk about Small Miracles and how they need community members to step up this summer. Here’s what she had to say.

Linda Belton interview

To learn more and sign up to volunteer, visit www.smallmiraclesncw.org today. Linda could really use your help and I guarantee it will be a fulfilling experience. That’s all for this episode, I’m Dominick Bonny, join me next time for more Common Sense. 

SOURCES

North Central Accountable Community of Health’s website: https://ncach.org/

Sen. Brad Hawkins’ website: https://bradhawkins.src.wastateleg.org/

Rep. Keith Goehner’s website: https://keithgoehner.houserepublicans.wa.gov/

Rep. Mike Steele’s website: https://mikesteele.houserepublicans.wa.gov/Small Miracles’ website: https://www.smallmiraclesncw.org/

Small Miracles’ website: https://www.smallmiraclesncw.org/