Ambulance gets new home

February 01, 2002 11:00 pm
DOWNTOWN DIGS: The La Grande Fire Department opens its doors to an ambulance previously housed at Grande Ronde Hospital. Fire Chief Bruce Weimer stands by as the reorganization at the fire hall begins Friday morning. (The Observer/LAURA MACKIE-HANCOCK).
DOWNTOWN DIGS: The La Grande Fire Department opens its doors to an ambulance previously housed at Grande Ronde Hospital. Fire Chief Bruce Weimer stands by as the reorganization at the fire hall begins Friday morning. (The Observer/LAURA MACKIE-HANCOCK).

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

The name on the side of the truck has changed, but the service remains the same.

The Grande Ronde Hospital ambulances became the City of La Grande Fire Department ambulances at 8 a.m. Friday.

Four hospital paramedics moved with the ambulances into their new quarters at the La Grande Fire Department at Washington Avenue and Elm Street, joining the citys firefighting staff, which includes two paramedics.

Although the transition appeared seamless, months of preparation preceded the change. Talks begun nearly a year ago covered issues ranging from staffing and equipment to cooperation with small ambulance services in Union and Elgin.

The average person should not see any difference in service, said La Grande Fire Chief Bruce Weimer.

The hospitals vice president for patient care, Janet Wright, agrees. We hope the change will be seamless for people, she said.

Weimer said the fire department will staff two ambulances per shift with paramedics and intermediate emergency medical technicians who are also firefighters.

Part of what makes this work is the experience of the paramedics, Wright said.

The new city paramedics are beginning training to become firefighters as well as paramedics. Weimer has said that eventually his goal is to have a full staff of firefighter-paramedics.

By law, the ambulance must serve the entire county.

In the rural areas, the service will run just as it has been running, Weimer said.

Elgin and Union have basic life support ambulances that respond to medical calls in those areas. That process will remain the same.

Theyll arrive, start patient care, and well transport or put a paramedic on their ambulance, he said.

The services of Airlife Medic One remain in place, and Weimer said that people with subscriptions will have coverage for ambulance service statewide.

Wright and Weimer said that the transition experience was

challenging.

We had lots of help from people, Weimer said. The hospital was incredible, giving their ambulances. If wed had to buy the ambulances and equipment, were probably talking $200,000 to $250,000 per ambulance. Thats just a huge gift from the hospital to the citizens of this county.

Former hospital paramedics staffing the ambulance are Brent Brotherton, David Weeks, Rob Feik and J.P. Morgan. City paramedics are Corky Gillies and Larry Schlesser. Michelle Clark, who resigned from the hospital paramedic team to return to school, will work fill in for absentees.

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