NEWPORT, Wash. - A private ambulance company about to begin service in Pend Oreille County says they're being told not to respond to calls local fire volunteers can handle on their own.
One fire chief said it's a matter of saving resources, but the company says it won't be able to survive.
When Pend Oreille paramedics begin service in Pend Oreille county, they will be the only first responders licensed to transport patients requiring advanced life support. Some local fire crews here say that resource is too precious to waste on calls volunteer crews can already manage, but the company says without those lower lever emergencies, it can't afford to stay in operation.
It's a fight to save lives in the county between private, and public first responders.
John Jackson co-owns Pend Oreille paramedics, a private EMS company that's being told not to respond to emergencies which require basic life support in two of the county's largest districts.
“We have met more opposition i believe than any other ambulance service ever has,” Jackson said. “Basically it takes away well over half the majority of calls."
That means volunteer firefighters will handle those low priority calls. Neither side disputes the qualifications of those firefighters but admits the paramedics have more training.
“I can't hire 21 employees as we've done, and start out a business with half the call volume, or even 75 percent of the call volume gone,” said Jackson.
South Pend Oreille Fire Chief Michael Nokes declined an on camera interview, but said the restrictions are meant to conserve resources. When in operation, Pend Oreille paramedics will be the only first responders licensed to transport patients requiring advanced life support. Nokes says this resource is too precious to waste on calls that his fire crews already handle. But Jackson says his companies needs more calls to keep his business alive, and in Pend Oreille county.
“Without us being in the county, there's no ALS ambulance in this county whatsoever,” said Jackson. “It's going to endanger people's lives, and unfortunately, the public doesn't realize what's going on."
On Thursday, both sides are meeting to hash out their differences, but the final say would ultimately be made by the department of health.
Pend Oreille paramedics have received support from several other fire districts chiefs, and also Pend Oreille's medical program director, who said she strongly opposes limiting where these paramedics can respond.