|Washington County Ambulance District was officially formed in 1981, but our story begins even before then. Ambulance services in Washington County were initially provided by local funeral homes. William “Bill” and Barb Gum operated an ambulance service from their funeral home, known as Gum & Son Funeral home. They ran their business for many years, until Gum & Son changed its name to Washington County Private Ambulance Service. Bill had an impressive resume, working as one of the first EMT’s in our region, as well as serving as one of the early members of the Missouri Ambulance Association. Both Bill and Barb were considered pioneers for modern day EMS in our region. They advanced the quality of first aid delivered in Washington County, and they advocated for the standardization and regulation of ambulance services.
Washington County Ambulance District was officially formed in August of 1981 after the voters of Washington County approved a levy to establish an Emergency Ambulance District. The district was to be governed by a six-member Board of Directors, all of whom would be elected by public vote and represent a sub-district within the county. The first Board of Directors began Washington County Ambulance District as a small Basic Life Support service (EMT level) with a small fleet of ambulances. One vehicle was purchased from a state contract, while an additional ambulance was purchased from each funeral home in the county.
Initially, the local county hospital managed the day to day operations of Washington County Ambulance District. The original ambulance staff worked out of a small office in the hospital, where the ambulances were housed under a canopy along the side of the building. The staff included only 6 people, with two on duty at any given time. Their schedule involved working for 24 hours, remaining on call for the next 24 hours, and finally enjoying 24 hours off.
The following year again brought new and exciting administrative changes to the district. On October 15, 1982, Washington County Ambulance District became independent from the county hospital. Its new Administrator, William “Mal” Gum, oversaw Washington County Ambulance District from 1982 until early 2017. The District began service out of its own three-bay garage along the west end of Potosi, where it continued to operate for the next 8 years. The new ambulance house even had quarters for the crew to eat and sleep in.
During the latter part of 1990, the Washington County Ambulance District Board of Directors authorized the purchase of a building at 111 South Water Street for a new, permanent ambulance house, crew quarters, and district headquarters. The structure was commonly referred to as WCAD House 1. Prior to the formation of 911 service in Washington County, WCAD House 1 even provided its own dispatching service.
Over the years, it became evident that a single ambulance house in Potosi was insufficient to serve the needs of a large county. We saw a particularly large increase in calls for service in the northern part of the district. So, in 1998, Washington County Ambulance District purchased a new building in Old Mines, Missouri. The new base went in service on October 16, 1998 and became known as WCAD House 2. It too is staffed by a 24/7 ALS rig.
The demand for EMS in Washington County continued to grow, and call volume noticeably increased on the southern side of the county as well. In order to reduce the time spent waiting for an ambulance, WCAD House 3 was opened in Belgrade, Missouri on April 17, 2020 with yet another 24/7 ALS ambulance. We are proud to continue providing rapid, high quality service where our residents need us most.
The field of EMS education has grown rapidly in recent years. In 1999, the district instituted its very own in-house education program for the Paramedics and EMT’s. We can now keep our providers updated in real-time on the ever-changing field of emergency medicine.
2017 was another historic year for Washington County Ambulance district. Justin Duncan was appointed as the new Administrator and Chief of EMS, bringing with him a wealth of knowledge and expertise in high quality clinical care, education, and management. Justin also formed the now nationally renowned Critical Care Transport education program, which takes prehospital clinical care to the next level. The new Critical Care Transport program provides education and training on state-of-the art therapies and procedures which were previously only performed in a hospital setting. Today, nearly every Paramedic and RN at the district holds the designation of Critical Care Transport Provider. Many of our Paramedics and RNs even hold nationally recognized board certifications in Critical Care Transport.
In 2019, the district entered into an agreement with Mineral Area College (MAC) and took over instruction of their EMS Education programs. Now, our very own WCAD EMS Clinicians lead the MAC EMT and Paramedic Courses, both in an administrative capacity and as primary instructors. Our instructors maintain rigorous academic credentials while also practicing medicine in the field, providing a unique learning experience for our students.
Over the last several decades, the size of our fleet has grown to meet the needs of Washington County. Today, we boast eight ambulances equipped and stocked at the Critical Care Transport level. In addition, we operate 4 quick response vehicles, an off-road UTV, and a disaster response vehicle.
Our staffing has also increased dramatically since the inception of the District. What began as only 6 employees has now grown to 55 licensed professionals, including a team of 4 support staff members. Every day, 5 ALS ambulances are operated to provide adequate coverage in Washington County. In the event of temporary, unpredictable surges in call volume, we are even capable of placing additional ALS ambulances in service. We thank our dedicated team of local EMS Clinicians for their enthusiasm and willingness to report for duty on short notice to keep Washington County safe.
Washington County Ambulance District has seen many changes over the years since its humble beginning. We are proud to provide exceptional mobile healthcare services to our district, excited about the future, and eager to continue growing. We are also extraordinarily grateful to those who painstakingly built this district over the last several decades and to those who dedicated their lives to serving this community.