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City of Nome to Transfer Ambulance Services to Norton Sound Health Corporation

A Norton Sound Health Corporation ambulance parked behind the hospital. Ben Townsend photo.

April 26, 2024

Ben Townsend, News Director

In a move to enhance emergency medical services, the City of Nome has opted to transfer the operation of its ground ambulance services to Norton Sound Health Corporation (NSHC). This change, scheduled to take effect at 12:01 a.m. on April 30, aims to ensure a more reliable and efficient response to medical emergencies. The decision was finalized with the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement on April 19.

The change was prompted by the need for more consistent ambulance coverage. Previously the city operated a volunteer-based ambulance service. NSHC will provide 24 hour, seven day per week coverage with two qualified staffers working 12 hour shifts. They also plan to schedule a second-out team to ensure back up coverage. 

With NSHC operating the ambulances Nome City Manager Glenn Steckman anticipates improvements to the quality of service. 

“I’m expecting that when an ambulance responds there will always be two individuals on an ambulance. And I think that’ll be the biggest change in service. There won’t be a problem on calling out service, the hospital ER department should be responding,” Steckman said.

Community members will still call 911 to request emergency services under the new setup. As part of the transition the city will also lend resources to the hospital, including two ambulances currently owned by the city as well as communication equipment. Over time, NSHC will acquire their own vehicles and equipment to complete the transition. Steckman feels confident that the transition should be “as seamless as possible.”

The change will free up expenditures in the city’s budget. Last year, the City of Nome allocated $437,848.96 for ambulance services. In a draft of the 2025 fiscal year budget that amount is zero. The draft budget has notable increases in funding for city administration, police, road maintenance, and non-departmental expenses such as Nome Public Schools. The city will review the budget during an upcoming special work session on May 6. 

The Nome Volunteer Ambulance Service was created in 1980 by NSHC but soon after became an independent, non-profit agency. The City of Nome later absorbed the agency in 1996 and subsequently was renamed to the Nome Volunteer Ambulance Department. 44 years after its creation, ambulance services have come full circle back to NSHC. A reception honoring the volunteers is being planned for late May or early June.

Steckman expressed his appreciation for the numerous volunteers that have contributed to the service over the years. 

“Hundreds of volunteers have dedicated a lot of their time to provide ambulance service. And I think that’s also important that we remember a lot of folks were taken care of, and helped and even obviously even saved by these volunteers,” Steckman said. 

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