Prior to 1981, ambulance services in Washington County were provided by the local funeral homes. The most memorable to our history would be Gum & Son Funeral Home. William “Bill” and Barb Gum operated the funeral home based ambulance service for many years. Ultimately, Gum & Son changed the name to Washington County Private Ambulance Service, prior to the formation of the ambulance district. Bill and Barb Gum were considered pioneers for modern day EMS in our region. Bill was an advocate for the formation of regulations regarding ambulance services and was an early member of the Missouri Ambulance Association. Bill Gum was one of the first EMT’s in our region, making huge advancements to the prior “advanced first aid” level of care offered by most ambulance responses at the time.
Washington County Ambulance District was formed in August of 1981 after voters of Washington County approved a levy to be used for the establishment of an Emergency Ambulance District. It began as a Basic Life Support (EMT level) service, with a vehicle purchased from a state contract and one purchased from each funeral home in the county. Washington County Ambulance District is governed by a six-member Board of Directors that represent six separate sub-districts in the county, all of whom have been elected by public vote.
Washington County Ambulance District was originally operated by the county hospital. So, the first ambulance station was located at the hospital. The ambulances were housed under a canopy, with the employees working out of a small office. With an original full-time trained ambulance staff of just six people, the original schedule was to work for 24 hours, be on call for 24 hours and then be off for 24 hours.
After some structure and administrative changes on October 15, 1982, the Washington County Ambulance District became independent from the county hospital. The Washington County Ambulance District began service on its own at a three-bay garage with quarters built for personnel at the west end of Potosi, where the service remained for eight years. William “Mal” Gum was the original and long-standing Administrator of the Washington County Ambulance District, until his retirement in early 2017.
During the latter part of 1990, the Washington County Ambulance District Board of Directors authorized the purchase of a building and property at 111 South Water Street for permanent ambulance crew quarters and district headquarters, commonly referred to as WCAD House 1. Until the formation of the 911 service in Washington County, we provided our own dispatching services.
Since the early days of the Washington County Ambulance District, we have continued to upgrade our services that we are proud to provide to our community. The most notable would be the upgrade of patient care offered by providing Licensed Paramedics on every ambulance with the ability to administer Advanced Life Support care to our residents and visitors 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Today, each ambulance is staffed with at least one Missouri Licensed Paramedic and an EMT who work in cooperation with the Fire Departments/Districts and Law Enforcement agencies in and around Washington County, Missouri.
In 1998 the Washington County Ambulance District purchased a new building nine miles north of Potosi to better serve the northern area of the district due to the call volume in that area. A staffed ALS unit was put into service on October 16, 1998, from that location, known as WCAD House 2. It is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
In 1999 the district instituted an in-house education program for the Paramedics and EMT’s to keep them updated on the ever-changing field of emergency medicine for pre-hospital care providers.
Washington County Ambulance District has always stressed the importance of continuing education and quality equipment. Our goal is to maintain the highest level of care for the patients we serve and will continue to provide a service everyone can be proud of.
Our fleet has increased to seven ambulances, two quick response vehicles, and an equipped disaster response trailer. Our staffing has increased dramatically from the early years going from six trained staff members to 45 licensed professionals and a team of 3 support staff members. Every day, 3 ambulances are staffed 24 hours a day with additional “flex” ambulances operating during peak hours. We have the ability to place an additional ambulance in service with short notice, thanks to the dedicated team, in order to meet the needs of our districts fluctuating call volume.
Washington County Ambulance District has seen many changes over the years since it’s humble beginning. We are proud to provide exceptional services to our district and neighboring communities when the need arises. We are excited about the future but also grateful for our history.