Oroville should consider OEMSA ambulance offer

Web-Editorial-Gary-MugThe Oroville EMS Association put an interesting proposition before the city last week – rather than contracting with a private ambulance service, contract with the existing crew to respond to emergency calls for medical help.

We hope the mayor and city council will give a lot of consideration to this plan. There is a trust of our hardworking volunteers that just might not be there if the city spent our tax money on a private company. While this isn’t meant to disparage private ambulance services like Lifeline, we’ve come to know the crews aboard our ambulances – they tend to be our friends and neighbor even when we aren’t in desperate need of help. These are the people we live and work with.

The sticking point, the hard issue the city has to face is that there are not enough people to staff the ambulance as it is. This situation can’t go on, but it is a lot to ask of our friends and neighbors to give up their time and money to train to be an EMT, to ask them to be on call with little reward other than good karma. We have to find a way to staff the service and to find that ambulance coordinator that can help pull it all together.

The situation is not totally unlike the one we found ourselves in several years back – looking to the Okanogan County Sheriff’s office to provide policing under contract to the city. The town leaders made the right decision then and rather than rely on outsiders to do the policing they fixed the problems at home and now the Oroville Police Department is well respected and well run. We believe the same can happen for the ambulance branch of first responders.

It was heartening to see all the people who came out to support the current crew and their proposal. Even better to hear that the job isn’t “thankless” even when it might feel like it is. It was also great to see members of the Tonasket ambulance crew ready to give support and lend a hand until the Oroville crew can get back up to what it needs to allow quality 24-hour emergency response.

Michael Greene, ambulance coordinator for Tonasket was a good spokesman for the Oroville volunteers and he made some good points.

Currently there are only seven responders providing 24-hour service, 365 days a year, according to the OEMSA’s presentation. “With our extended transport times and the high level of care we provide, three people is the minimum needed to provide quality patient care where two provide patient care and the third person drives the ambulance,” they write.

They go on to say 24-hour response, 365 days a year, requires 26,280 hours of coverage. With seven responders volunteering 120 hours a week that would still result in a 16,200 hour shortfall. The group says it needs an additional 11 to 12 responders to fully staff the ambulance.

They said a contract for $160,000 would cover the costs and could be done by realigning the current budget for ambulance services. That’s the part that will have to be looked into more closely.

The mayor and council also made good points – you can’t run an ambulance – either the way it has been ran in the past or under contract, if you don’t have enough people to get the job done. They listened attentively to the offer and we’re sure, after consulting their counterparts in the Rural EMS, make the right decision for the people who call the Oroville area their home.