National EMS Week - Man returns to NE Iowa to lead EMS

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New EMS Director Todd Eiffert recently hosted a class of students from MFL MarMac. He is pictured with Jon Sylvester and Jane Kuennen.

By Pam Reinig

Register Editor


A man who spent his childhood summers in Monona has returned to the area to head up the emergency medical services crew at Central Community Hospitals.

Todd Eiffert was born in San Diego and went to school in Phoenix. He ultimately relocated to Northeast Iowa, and graduated from MFL Mar-Mac. He spent the next eight years in the U.S. Navy, where he earned his firefighter and paramedic certifications.

“After leaving the Navy, I became a firefighter and paramedic for Portsmouth, VA and Suffolk, VA,” Eiffert said. He also worked in a catheterization lab at a medical center, in a shipyard as a medic and in the emergency room at a children’s hospital. In addition, he owned and operated a private investigation firm. 

Eiffert gave up his fire service and PI work in 2011. Following retirement, he was a school bus driver for three years. The last year was spent driving for special needs students.

“About two years before the end of my (military) career, I started to look at what life was going to be like after the Navy,” he said. “I took an EMT course at the local college and did a ride-along with a friend of mine on an ambulance. The first call that night was a cardiac arrest, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Anytime you can make a difference for someone or their family, it’s a great reward.

Eiffert comes to Elkader from a system that answered 20,000-plus calls a year with five ambulances staffed round-the-clock. By contrast, Central Ambulance Service handles about 300 calls annually with two vehicles and an all-volunteer crew of nine drivers, 10 EMTs and five paramedics. 

The chance to work within a smaller operation is one of the factors of the job that appealed to Eiffert. He believes he will be better able to see the difference the crew makes in the lives of the people it serves.

In addition to the day-to-day challenges that come with a new job in general and emergency services, specifically, scheduling personnel will be an ongoing test for the new director. That will be especially true in the coming year as paramedics face a major increase in training to meet new recertification guidelines. In some parts of the nation, the new requirements have thinned volunteer ranks by limiting the pool of new recruits and causing experienced paramedics to question whether they’ll continue their volunteer work. If that would happen here—and Eiffert is hopeful it will not—the impact could be costly. Response times would increase and additional costs would be accrued. The worst-case scenario would be relying on a professional ambulance service to cover local calls.

“If an outside agency wanted to come in and run a full-time service in the city of Elkader the cost would be astronomical,” Eiffert said, “and that cost would be pushed to the consumer in the form of higher taxes and additional monies that would need to be provided by insurance companies.”

Fortunately, Eiffert doesn’t see that happening because of the “unselfish sacrifices made on a daily basis” by the volunteers.

Despite the challenges of his new position, Eiffert is happy to be back in Northeast Iowa. He’s anxious for his two grown daughters to visit him here, and he looks forward to the day when his 14-year-old son comes out, too. Eiffert also has a 7-month-old foster son, three stepsons and five grandchildren.

“The big reward (of this job) is that I’m home after being gone for 30 years,” he said. “A much slower paced lifestyle and a tight-knit community where people wave and say hello to each other in passing is a great thing,. I don’t know if the rewards can be fully measured. Every day here is full of rewards. Central Community Hospital is a great place with great people to work with and for.” 

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