After a staffing shortage at the Grand Marais local last summer led to challenges responding to emergency calls, including requiring the hospital administrator to drive the ambulance, the situation has improved in recent months.
In May 2022, WTIP reported that Kimber Wraalstad, the hospital administrator for North Shore Health in Grand Marais, was driving the ambulance as medical personnel responded to emergency calls. Wraalstad maintains that this situation arose out of necessity, but is not limited to health care facilities across Minnesota that are also struggling with staffing shortages. Other hospital CEOs across the state would also step in and provide all necessary services to keep their medical facilities functioning, she said.
Over the past 15 months, more people have been hired to work for the local emergency medical service based at North Shore Health. According to North Shore Health officials, the current emergency personnel roster includes approximately 25 people. Five of them are paramedics and twelve are paramedics. Last May there were only two paramedics on staff.
On a sunny September morning, WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs met with several paramedics and North Shore Health employees outside the local hospital. Among them was Karla Pankow, the EMS director at North Shore Health. Pankow said there is still a need for new hires and additional staffing for North Shore Health’s ambulance crew, but the situation has improved compared to last year. However, the number of calls where an ambulance is needed is also increasing, said Pankow.
“This time last year we had 50 fewer calls,” she said. “We are seeing an increase in need in our community of approximately 146 percent.”
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Others interviewed in this report include North Shore Health employees who are part of the rescue team: Ben Belland, Shalom Richardson and Chris Thompson.