Pate retires from EMS position after 27 years

Dr. John Pate has served as the Emergency Medical Services director for the Wadena, Bertha and Henning area since one year after joining the Tri-County Health Care staff as a family medicine doctor.

Pate Parade Wave.JPG
Dr. John Pate waves to first responders from the area including Wadena, Bertha and Sebeka ambulance and fire department crews in a surprise drive-by parade for his retirement from Emergency Medical Services director on May 20, 2021. He has been director for 27 years. Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal

Throughout his time as Emergency Medical Services director, Dr. John Pate is most impressed with the people who answer and respond to emergency calls. He said their commitment to caring for people makes the rest of the process easier.

He is retiring from his director position for the Wadena, Bertha and Henning area after about 27 years, though he is continuing to work with the Bertha ambulance crew. Pate is also a family medicine doctor at Tri-County Health Care, where he is slightly limiting his number of patients.

“Couldn’t have continued doing it if I didn’t have great people out there who were answering the calls and going out on the ambulance runs,” Pate said.


While Pate mostly worked in the West Central Minnesota area, his EMS involvement started with a ride along as a teenager and continued through his college years and time in the Marines. He started as director just one year after joining the Tri-County staff.

As director, Pate reviews the treatments and forms attached with each call that emergency medical technicians and paramedics are sent out on. He also rides along about two to four times a month-when the calls are close and he’s able to step away from the hospital-to see what areas of training are working and not working.

While supporting many communities, training is pivotal. Pate said Tri-County’s training program for first responders and basic life support service ambulances allow the services to work. In towns like Eagle Bend, Deer Creek, Verndale, Sebeka and Henning, crews with specific training are attached with the fire departments. And law enforcement members in Wadena, Todd and Otter Tail counties are well-trained in the initial care steps while waiting for EMTs and paramedics to arrive.

During the 2010 tornado, Pate described how 20 ambulances responded to Wadena, including many who weren’t called but gladly came to help.

“All the organizations put together make a tremendous difference more than any one of them could do alone,” Pate said. “The whole system works together and everybody kind of helps out.”


Technology has changed a lot of the services offered on the scene, like defibrillators and devices that perform chest compressions in consistent speeds and depth. In the 1970s, Pate said resources available didn’t work that well and the goal was to get the patient as quickly as possible to the hospital. Today, their goal is to use effective measures on the scene and still transport patients to receive the best care possible.
When patients are unstable, like after a car accident, the hope is to have them transported within 10 minutes of arriving at the scene.

“From a process that was pretty simple, we now have pretty complex plans for when we arrive at the scene of a cardiac arrest, for instance, or other critical illnesses,” Pate said. “We’re able to follow down those pathways and provide a care that usually … helps bring the patient back to a more steady state.”


TCHC cardiac grant
Photo provided Tri-County Health Care EMS staff have been trained to work the Zoll AutoPulse chest compression device. Paramedics Brian Pollock, Julie Jenson and Jacob Jacobson each take their turn practicing with the compression device to become proficient in its use when minutes matter most.

The crews also continually help with little to no pay as primary and back-up crews, as Pate said. He added that people’s willingness “makes a difference in lives saved and reducing the effects of illnesses and injuries during the time that they’re on their way to the hospital.”

“It’s really pretty amazing that people are willing to volunteer or put out the time to do that,” Pate said. “They’re taking risks as well as trying to help their fellow members of the communities that they live in.”

Rebecca Mitchell started as a Digital Content Producer for the Post Bulletin in August 2022. She specializes in feature reporting as well as enhancing online articles. Readers can reach Rebecca at 507-285-7681 or
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