We will miss our volunteer ambulance crew

Editorial Gary MugOroville and the county have decided to keep a private sector ambulance service and not go back to an all volunteer service like the one that served us so well for nearly three decades.

We’ve all had family, friends and neighbors and perhaps yourselves, who were well served by the volunteer EMTs and ambulance drivers who put in countless hours. All this with little or now compensation other than the good feeling they got from helping out their fellow man. That went away when the volunteers and the city came to an impass over how the crew was going to be run in the future. This led to the discovery that no, the county commissioner-appointed Rural EMS board did not have the right to sign a new interlocal agreement with the city over services. Something that had been going on for 28 years. Instead that job fell by law, to the county commissioners themselves. While some on the ambulance crew said the city was stalling, they were just waiting for the commissioners to get up to speed before they re-entered an agreement with the city. It wasn’t the city’s fault or the county’s fault, it was just the way it was.

However, the volunteer ambulance crew got tired of waiting and tried to force the city’s hand. They submitted their resignations and after a couple weeks the city accepted them. This put the city and the county in an emergency situation and they hired Lifeline – hiring someone to fulfill the ambulance service was their responsibility and that’s what they did, it was just the way it was.

Now we are looking at having Lifeline full time – we have nothing against the company and other than some letters questioning some of the crew member’s dietary choices in the letters to the editor – like a donut, we’ve heard few complaints about their services. Several letter writers have penned their concerns about the costs of going with a private company in the future and that’s where our concerns mirror theirs.

Right now we have two Lifeline employees housed at the ambulance hall. When they go out on a call they need to get ahold of one of our volunteer firefighters to act as driver while the two EMTs keep tab on their patient in the back. Will this remain the same, or will we have at least three private ambulance service personnel in the future? While we have great respect for Tonasket’s EMTs, we can we truly pencil them into the equation to be available at all times when Oroville gets multiple calls or if there’s a big accident requiring two ambulances? If not will we have two more private sector EMTs on staff 24/7? The costs seem to be adding up quickly.

While some might accuse certain people of rocking the boat as far as the ambulance crew was concerned, there obviously was tension that existed with or without one disgruntled individual. There may be no going back, but the costs of a private service may turn out to be too high – either way, whether they’re shorthanded with only two EMTs or have enough personnel to run both ambulances.

Lastly, we’d like to say there are good people on both sides of the issue – our city leaders and the former Oroville Ambulance crew. We hope we’re wrong, but after the service goes private we might just wish we could go back in time to when things were simpler and our family, friends and neighbors not only were aided by the ambulance, but served as the crew as well.

About Gary DeVon

Gary DeVon is the managing editor of the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune and celebrated his 25th year at the newspaper in August 2012. He graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in Communications - Print Journalism, with an emphasis in photojournalism. He is a proud alumnus of Oroville High School. His family first settled in Okanogan County in the late 1800s. His parents are Judy DeVon and the late Larry DeVon and he has two younger brothers - Dante and Michael. Many family members still call Oroville home. He has a grown daughter, Segornae Douglas and a young granddaughter, Erin.