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      EMS changes causing concern for volunteers

      EMS First Responders may be facing some serious changes when it comes to the way they do their jobs. And if they don't act fast, they could be seeing these changes by February.

      They respond to thousands of calls a year, and when it comes to saving someone's life, first responders need every tool available to make that happen, especially in rural areas where it could take longer to get to the emergency.

      However, The Michigan Department of Community Health is planning to take valuable instruments away from EMT workers in an effort to have a uniform program throughout the state.

      "Many of the first responder organizations in Lower Michigan are affiliated with fire departments, and they have ambulances close by and they work together. But in the U.P., some of the first responder organizations are a half hour away from an ambulance, and those services need to have the skills and training and the tools to deal with people who are suffering," said UP-EMS Director Bob Struck.

      EMTs have been using the same tools for over 20 years, and if they're taken away, first responders are worried that they won't be able to save lives. If these changes do take place, Medical First Responders won't be able to administer aspirin, and they also won't be able to use a glucometer, which is the first thing they do to every emergency patient.

      "You get a call that someone's unconscious, the family can't wake them, the first thing you can do is get a glucose reading. If that glucose reading is high or extremely low, sometimes that tells you what's wrong, and then we can start our treatment. The sooner we can do that, the better off for the patient," said Bell Hospital EMT Dennis Karuzas.

      First responders from Marquette and Baraga counties invited Representative Matt Huuki and Senator Tom Casperson to Bell Memorial Hospital to explain their concerns.

      "It's a major issue. First responders here in our rural area in the Upper Peninsula are extremely important to us and our safety. I think it's overlooked and undervalued, and it's something we need to make sure that we are giving these individuals the tools so they're able to do their job properly and keeping us, the public, safe," said Representative Matt Huuki.

      Representative Huuki and Senator Casperson plan to contact the State Department of Community Health to work out a solution.

      The health department did not have a representative at the meeting, and we were unable to reach them.

      We asked people about this issue on our Facebook page and here is a few of the comments:

      "What shocker. Some group trying to take things away from another group in Michigan." - Dave Fine

      "Typical bureaucracy! Make the decision makers take the job for a month!" - Rose Vachon