Ambulance ride-alongs debated at Oroville Council

Mayor Chuck Spieth presents a certificate of appreciation to Karen Monroe for her 30 years of service to Oroville. Monroe is the deputy city clerk. Photo by Gary DeVon

Mayor Chuck Spieth presents a certificate of appreciation to Karen Monroe for her 30 years of service to Oroville. Monroe is the deputy city clerk. Photo by Gary DeVon

OROVILLE – Having recently completed the EMT course, Chris Allen approached the Oroville Council and asked why he couldn’t participate in “ride-alongs” anymore.

Allen said that every other community he had been in allowed for ride-alongs and that Oroville allowed them for the police and fire departments, but he was told it was against the law for the ambulance. He said he had contacted state officials that seemed to dispute what he had been told by Oroville Ambulance Coordinator Debra Donahue.

“Mr. Lopez, the EMS Supervisor emailed me the guidelines and he said he’d like to see ride-alongs for training,” said Allen.

“I think we’ll have Debra take this question. She has been appointed by me as the coordinator for the City of Oroville. I read this a little differently than you do and I’d like to hear what she has to say first.”

Donahue, who taught the EMT course, said that after learning she would be asked to speak on the matter, got her information from the North Central Regional Care Council in writing.

“Ride along programs in the State of Washington are rare,” she said, adding that liability and federal HIPPA laws added to their rarity.

The Oroville Ambulance Service is a member of the NC Regional Care Council, as are all the ambulance services and EMS districts in Okanogan County. Donahue said that while the student is in the EMT course ride-alongs are a requirement, but after the course ends and before the student has his or her certificate, they are in “limbo” and are not allowed additional ride-alongs. The exception is if the student needs an extended period to complete the course.

“Once they have finished the course they are no longer covered as a student or as a ‘good Samaritan’ because they have been trained. Every student achieves their ride alongs prior to testing.

“As for other agencies allowing as in Chris’ comment about Tonasket, I don’t care… I’m not going to do something that’s not by the law,” said the ambulance coordinator, referring to the policy of the NCECC.

“Obviously if this is the case I was misinformed,” said Allen. “My information and his information could have been misinterpreted.”

Mayor Spieth said that without getting further legal interpretations he would have to stand by Donahue and her decision.

Donahue concluded that she also received a copy of Lopez’ comments and added that it said, “Please note there can be regional differences.”

The ambulance coordinator said, “Our region has opted out with a big ‘NO.'”

Addressing Allen, Councilman Ed Naillon added, “We do appreciate your willingness to serve, but the state builds in flexibility for the agencies to decide what policies they will follow.”

Bob Sandefur, a pilot from Omak, with three planes at Oroville, asked permission for himself and two other pilots to pour concrete pads in front of three of the open hangers. He said that he and the other pilots. who he says have the skills and equipment, would do the work at no charge if the city would pay an estimated $1170 for the nine yards of concrete.

City Clerk Kathy Jones said that the city had not budgeted for the expense and that it had to find funds to replace the fuel card lock system at a cost of $14,500.

“If the city does it for you, then the city will have to do it for everyone,” said Rod Noel, Superintendent of Public Works, adding that the city had not built the hangers, but had “inherited” them.

In a related item, Steve Johnston, the airport services manager, requested a way to add lights that could be turned on and off so that the customs inspector could make there inspections at night.

The money was requested and budgeted for, according to Johnston, who worries that without lights the inspections might be limited to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“That would be hard on us for our traffic and hard on our fuel sales,” said Johnston.

Jones reported on a meeting she had with Okanogan County Planning Director Perry Huston and two representatives from the state Public Works Trust Fund regarding the loan for the Eastlake Sewer Project and improvements to the city’s sewer treatment facility. The Public Works Board has agreed to extend the 20 year loan out to 30 years, according to Jones.

“The city was a participant in a share of the loan for system improvements and the biosolids upgrade,” said Jones. “The impact to the city is it will increase the interest by $77,000, but we will have an extra 10 years to make the payments. In the long run it will be to our benefit.”

The next meeting of the Oroville City Council will not be until the first Tuesday in July, July 3, as the Tuesday, June 19 meeting has been cancelled. The city council meets at 7 p.m. in the council chambers located at 1308 Ironwood St.