May 29, 2001 11:00 pm

Shifting ambulance

to city makes sense

The idea of the City of La Grande taking over the ambulance services from Grande Ronde Hospital makes a lot of sense. Not because the hospital has started losing money by providing the service, but because a city fire truck always shows up in town with or before the ambulance crew arrives.

Another reason why it makes sense is that a community the size of La Grande cant afford to have both a paid fire department and a paid ambulance service providing services separately. Most cities our size have ambulance services being provided by their fire departments.

Over the past couple of decades, the number of fire calls has been declining at a rapid rate while ambulance calls continue to rise. But cities continue to function with a full complement of firemen. One reason is that cities have to maintain adequate fire ratings for insurance purposes. Another reason might be that psychologically it would be hard for a community with a long history of a paid fire department to shut it down and rely on volunteers. After all, what if a major fire took place and the response was affected by not having a full complement of firefighters on hand?

In those communities where the ambulance services are provided by the fire department, the tax dollars stretch further and the needs are being adequately met.

In the process of discussions, the question of who would cover the ambulances has arisen. To provide accredited ambulance service, the ambulances must be staffed by individuals who are full paramedics. At one point, Fire Chief Bruce Weimer said the department would have to hire some of the staff from the hospital.

We think it would be better to train all the fire staff to the level of the hospital paramedics; the burden on the departments budget wouldnt have to increase much. By doing this, the ambulance service would not have to run in the red.

Another concern has been about providing ambulance service throughout the county. This might be fine, but we wonder why the city should have to foot the bill for people outside of the city limits. Shouldnt the other residents in the county be expected to help defray the cost of operations?

Grande Ronde Hospital and the City of La Grande should go ahead with the transfer of the ambulance operation to the city. But a system will need to be developed ensuring that all residents of the county pay their fair share for ambulance services.


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