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Ambulance board opting for paid paramedic staff

9/10/09 (Thu)

Ambulance board opting for paid paramedic staff
By STU MERRY
The Garrison Ambulance District is going from an all-volunteer paramedic service to one that is comprised of paid staff. The reason is due, in part, to a shortage of volunteers.
At their regular meeting Sept. 2, board members said the time has come to make a change.
“We’ve just run out of volunteers,” said board member Rick Hultberg. “We’ve explored every other option and exhausted many volunteers over the years … this is the one recourse we have to save the service in the community … I don’t think there’s any other way.”
One thing that hastened the move has been occasional lapses of coverage and having a shortage of people to cover shifts. Board members agreed that is unacceptable.
Dovetailing with what Hultberg said, board President Rev. Steve Holmes said, “The volunteer matter seems to be struggling really hard … we are not serving the hospital’s needs.
A major concern is not being able to serve Garrison Memorial Hospital in the best way possible. In attendance was Dr. Vern Harshenko, the district’s medical advisor. He was asked his feelings.
“We need to have a service that’s reliable – we can’t wait for an hour for an ambulance to arrive,” he told the board.
It was noted that if things stayed status quo, the possibility exists that the hospital could lose its trauma status.
Board member Cheryl Odden said it comes to a point of keeping the ambulance service reliable.
“It would be unfortunate if there was a dire emergency with the loss of a patient because of it (shortage of volunteers),” she said.
Holmes said he has had conversations with hospital staff who, upon hearing what is proposed, have said they are comfortable with the move.
“The hospital staff s very encouraged and supportive of this change,” Holmes added.