Jim Cunningham, president of the Southern Boone County Fire District, said members of the community have been trying to attract an ambulance service to Ashland for 18 years. By spring, their efforts might come to fruition.
University Hospital agreed last fall to station an ambulance and crew in Ashland to decrease response times in Southern Boone County. Now Cunningham and a group of citizens, including the Optimist Club and several Ashland business leaders, need to raise $150,000 to house the ambulance and crew. They aim to have the building completed and the service running by June at the latest.
Cunningham said the ambulance service is vital to decrease emergency response times from as long as 20 minutes to four minutes or less.
Mary Jenkins, MU Health Care spokeswoman, said strong community support and a growing need for the service influenced the decision to offer the service.
In the past three years, University Hospital ambulances have responded to an average of more than 415 calls per year in Southern Boone County and transported an average of more than 250 patients, Jenkins said.
“Literally seconds can mean the difference between life and death, so it’s exciting that this is finally happening,” Cunningham said. “An accepted medical standard is that for a heart attack victim, help needs to arrive in 10 minutes. With the new service, we can finally meet this standard.”
University Hospital will provide the ambulance and a 24-hour crew, but the community must provide a suitable facility, Jenkins said.
Cunningham said asking the community to fund a building is understandable.
“This service will be an expensive enterprise for the university,” Cunningham said, adding that it probably won’t be profitable right away. “I can see why they want us to find a place to house it.”
Cunningham said the community has been supportive. The Optimist Club has offered to donate some of its property for the building, while the city of Ashland is also looking to secure other land that could be more accessible to major roads and offer the fastest response time. If the city secures a property, it would work out a lease with the hospital, Cunningham said.
The building will have two bedrooms, a bathroom and a day room to support a full-time crew.
The first fundraiser will be a pancake breakfast sponsored by the Optimist Club from 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 4.
Cunningham said the next step will be identifying other residents and businesses able to help.
“We’re hoping to get donations of labor and materials as well as money,” he said. “I imagine we’ll have a good old-fashioned barn-raising in Southern Boone, only it will be for an ambulance building.”