Nearly 18,000 people in Sheboygan County are at risk of losing their ambulance service by the end of the year if Oostburg Ambulance cannot find enough volunteers to fill empty spots.
The all-volunteer organization is currently operating at about half the staff they need. They have been trying to recruit for years, but their numbers have slowly dwindled.
Melissa Sertich has volunteered as an EMT there for nearly 11 years. She is also on the Board of Directors.
"We can't keep covering 24 hours a day, seven days a week with very few members," she said.
They currently have about 14 people on staff.
As an all-volunteer service, they only receive a small stipend for their time. They say many members have left for full time jobs elsewhere.
"We're working our schedules, we're making it work," said Sertich. "It's not something we can do long term."
Oostburg Ambulance covers about 100 square miles of Sheboygan County, including the villages of Oostburg and Cedar Grove and the towns of Holland, Lima, Lyndon and Wilson, Wis.
If they shut down, response times in some of the more rural communities could nearly double.
"If it's really busy and there's no ambulance available, it could potentially be up to 30 minutes if everyone is really busy," said Sertich.
Elaine Brill has lived in Oostburg almost her entire life and says they've had to call on Oostburg Ambulance for help in the past.
"We would be hurting," said Brill. "That ambulance goes out often. Many, many people have been helped by them."
Oostburg Ambulance has operated in that area for more than 40 years, but without new volunteers, 2018 could see them shutting their doors for good.
"I live in this community, I would also be disappointed to not have a local ambulance service for myself or my family as well," said Kay Futterer, a volunteer EMR for Oostburg Ambulance.
More information regarding volunteer opportunities from the Oostburg Ambulance Facebook Page:
"If you are a registered nurse, EMT, or EMR, we can have you contributing your talents as part of the team in a very short time, sometimes just a couple of days is all it takes to complete the paperwork. If you currently do not have the training or the skill set to participate in the field of EMS and you are willing to invest your time and effort to learn new skills, we can help with getting you the training and certifications necessary. We will also help defray any associated costs."
Those interested in applying for a volunteer opportunity should contact Oostburg Ambulance at 920-564-3013 or e-mail: OostburgAmbulance@frontier.com.