It was Jan. 1, 1972, when the funeral directors of Tama County ended their longtime practice of providing ambulance coverage.
The new Tama Ambulance Service purchased the Mason-Hand Funeral Home ambulance, a Pontiac station wagon equipped with an oxygen tank. In Toledo, a new Ford van was converted, primarily by the firefighters, to serve as the ambulance.
In its first year of operation in '72, the Tama Ambulance Service responded to 110 calls.
Toledo and Tama Ambulance Services - serving their communities in spirit of cooperation.
Today, Toledo and Tama each answer between 600-650 calls annually.
Now into their 41st year, Emergency Medical Services - ambulance services staffed by volunteers in Toledo and Tama - have evolved through that time span.
Each service has a medical director- Dennis Mallory D.O. is Toledo's director and Joel Novak M.D. serves Tama.
A message from Dr. Dennis Mallory
Call 911 and Tama County Sheriff's office will dispatch First Responders, Fire, Fire Rescue, Law Enforcement, Emergency Medical Technicians, and/or Paramedics to provide emergency care and/or transport to a medical facility to save a limb or a life. This is the reality in Tama County and we are very fortunate to have the services.
Because of volunteerism and highly motivated individuals, the Tama County communities are provided with emergency medical services that are top in the nation. Data backs this up. Unfortunately, there is no Iowa statute that provides for the financial support of such service. Fire and Law Enforcement is a matter of required public financial support. EMS is not and on its own.
In Tama County, the cooperation and concerted efforts of EMS and their leaders have resulted in exceptional professional performance and there is progress in place to continue and improve the excellence. The EMS Bureau of the Iowa Department of Public Health is very supportive of Tama County EMS and the continued educational planning for continuing education and training of new EMS providers in the community is actively being addressed by IVCC in Marshalltown and EMS leaders and service directors.
Please support all efforts to continue the excellence of our Tama County Emergency Medical Services. I am proud to be associated with outstanding care givers in our community.
Dennis I. Mallory, DO, CMD
IVCC EMS Training Program
In addition, Dr. Mallory serves as Tama County's medical director and is a board member of the Iowa EMS Advisory Council.
This organization has set standards for providing emergency medical coverage in the state which Weitzell and Johnson say they confident in saying their services already meet or exceed these guidelines.
Both now have full-time paramedics in charge of the operations.
They are Don Weitzell for Tama and Greg Johnson in Toledo.
Both Weitzell and Johnson say the improved services include having advanced life support (ALS) available as needed for most calls along with a true spirit of cooperation between the two departments.
The ambulances are so well equipped they say their counterparts at the Marshalltown Medical and Surgical Center are envious of the advanced gear both Toledo and Tama have on board.
The cooperation plays a vital role in being able to provide ALS. In the past, ambluance crews here would summon a "tiered response" from the hospital they were headed to, usually Marshalltown or to Grinnell Regional Medical Center.
This would involve a unit from the hospitals meeting the ambulance with the patient aboard en route.
Now, an agreement in effect for the past couple of years provides for coverage for both Toledo and Tama during weekday and night hours split between Weitzell and Johnson.
In addition, paramedics Jesse Brown and Del Ray Hennessy, both of Toledo, are available for some ALS responses for either service.
Johnson and Weitzell say the plan has developed so well a separate radio page is activated if ALS is needed.
They said the local ambulances are so well regarded the Marshalltown hospital sometimes summons them to help out "when they are overwhelmed" there with emergencies.
Among the more than 30 volunteers on each service, there are four emergency medical technicians who are members of both ambulance services.
"For our volunteers there is a tremendous time commitment," Johnson said. to become an emergency medical technician, there's an initial 130 hours of classroom time, clinical rotations and ride time. In addition there's ongoing training and the time spent in covering more than 600 calls per serivce annually.
Johnson and Weitzell say they meet to discuss areas where both services working together can be benefiical.
With many tour buses usually arriving daily at the Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel, a bus accident has been a focus of some of thier strategy sessions.
Johnson and Weitzell said the tour bus accident which occurred on U.S. Highway 30 west of Toledo in July, 2008 was an illustration of their cooperation.
With 40 people aboard the bus which overturned in the ditch after being hit by car nearly head-on, all four ambulances and both Toledo and Tama fire departments responded.
They said "What wasn't imagined was this would occur on the same day as 20,000 RAGBRAI participants would arrive in Tama-Toledo" for an overnight stay.
But the area remained covered with the Traer Ambulance Service summoned to provide coverage illustrrating how the services cooperate.
Right now, the Toledo Ambulance Service is responding for some Garwin Ambulance Service calls while that service recruits additional personnel.
In Tama County, all seven ambulance services and two first responder units are part of a 28E service agreement providing mutal aid and are members of the county association. They share in some training exercises.
And another good part of the local ambulance services - they are self sustaining.
Although they run under city budgets, each pay its own way through billings for insurance, Medicaid and Medicare, private payments and donations.
Each maintains a trust fund where excess collections are placed to pay for major equipment purchases such as the ambulances.
Weitzell and Johnson agree the city leaders are always cooperative with the services and offer full support.