FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Ambulance Deserts impact 4.5 million Americans moving the struggle for accessible healthcare outside the doors of clinics or hospitals. The biggest place of impact for most states is rural communities and the same applies to Indiana as 60.7% of ambulance deserts exist in rural counties. So, what can those living in rural counties impacted do in the case of an emergency?

What is an “Ambulance Desert”?

An ambulance desert is a populated census block with its geographic center outside of a 25-minute ambulance service area according to a study released by the Rural Health Research & Policy Centers. In simpler terms, it describes an area of the state that lacks consistent availability of emergency response services. The causes of this could range anywhere from the number of ambulances available in a county to the proximity of ambulance stations.

Who is impacted?

In the state of Indiana, 93,807 or 1.4% of people are living in an ambulance desert. This percentage considerably jumps when considering residents living in rural communities, as 56,974 or 3.9% are impacted. The most impacted counties of Indiana are Orange, Lawrence, Brown, and Clay with partial impact on Harrison, Posey, Newton, LaGrange, and Fulton counties. The issue faced by those in ambulance deserts is whether or not the ambulance will make it in time, and many doctors say the first hour, known as the “golden hour,” after trauma is crucial.

The “Golden Hour” phenomena

The “golden hour,” is a phenomenon wildly used by doctors to increase the timeliness when it comes to emergency response. The term is utilized to show the importance of the first hour after a trauma as faster responses have been proven to increase better outcomes. When ambulances take longer to respond it ultimately decreases the likelihood of a positive outcome. According to an article published by the National Library of Medicine, the median average for response times in rural areas is 14 minutes, while in urban areas the response time is often just 7 minutes.

The odds drastically change in ambulance deserts where response times are often 25 minutes or more. The idea presented in the golden hour looks to reduce preventable deaths. The question for those facing longer response times is, what can you do in the case of a medical emergency?

What should you do in case of a medical emergency?

It is recommended in a medical emergency to first stay calm and dial 911, but in the case of living in an ambulance desert what can you do while waiting for the ambulance to arrive?

  • Start CPR or rescue breathing, if it’s needed and you know the proper technique.
  • Place the conscious or unconscious person in the recovery position, it is important to NOT move the person if there has been or may have been a neck injury.

It is important that while these Ambulance Deserts exists, bystanders can provide possible life-saving care.