November 26, 2001 11:00 pm

The Union County Commissioners are taking the right approach toward finding a successor to Grande Ronde Hospital serving as the countywide ambulance service provider.

Even though all the discussion has been between the hospital and La Grande officials about the city taking over operations of the ambulance system, La Grande City Manager Wes Hare was being a bit premature in assuming that the citys fire department was the only logical organization to assume that responsibility.

County commissioners seem to be interested in making sure whomever is awarded the contract to provide countywide ambulance services is the best and most frugal in providing this service. During Wednesdays commissioners meeting, Commissioner Colleen MacLeod was named to act as liaison to the ambulance advisory committee whose job it will be to seek out bidders.

The committee will follow the letter of the law in holding meetings and planning for a smooth transition for the services to be handed over to the next vendor.

We agree with committee chairman Mike Gooderham, who said, Part of the process is competitiveness. Its worthwhile to look at budgets. Its part of our role to determine what is best for ambulance users. City officials seem to feel that they need a speedy answer in order to establish a Medicare billing record soon, otherwise Medicare could set a lower rate than might be needed.

City officials have said they believe that a profit of over $200,000 can be made from the ambulance service annually even though the hospital has seen the service slipping toward the red. It makes one wonder how the city might be able to run the service at a more profitable level than the private, non-profit corporation.

Hospital President Jim Mattes has said the hospital is ready to donate three fully equipped ambulances to the city and will provide training for fire department paramedics but only if the city is awarded the contract. What if Island Citys fire department or even Elgins fire department decided to make a bid to provide the service? Wouldnt the hospital do the same for them?

In the end La Grande might end up being awarded the ambulance contract with the county, but taking the necessary steps to make sure citizens end up with the best value for their buck is important. The county commissioners are there to protect every citizen in the county, even those within the La Grande city limits.


Have an opinion thats different from ours, our columnists or our letter writers? Write it down and send it in. The Observer encourages reader input through letters and guest columns.

Almost everything is fair game for a comment The Observer, local issues, state issues, national or international. Please write!