Local agencies working on fix for ambulance shortage

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The Colusa County Board of Supervisors is calling the county, cities of Williams and Colusa, and the chiefs of all the local fire department to pool their money to keep a second ambulance on call through the fiscal year, while they begin working on a long-term solution to address an ambulance shortage.

The county could pitch in $100,000 when they meet again Nov. 5, officials said Tuesday, although that won’t be enough to keep a second ambulance rolling 12 hours a day for very long.

“This is a long-term problem,” said Chairman Kent Boes. “This is not going away no matter how much money we throw at it.”

Local government and fire officials have been scrambling since they learned earlier this month that Enloe Medical Center, who contracts with Sierra-Sacramento Valley EMS Agency to provide ambulance services, plans to pull one of two ambulances in Colusa County due to operating losses of about $440,000 year.

Enloe plans to reduce its fleet to just one ambulance on duty 24 hours per day, said Vickie Pinette, SSV executive director.

Pinette said that while there are other ambulance providers in the area, they are either not interested in serving Colusa County or they have other contract obligations that cannot be broken without high penalties.

Pinette said that while some disagree that Enloe’s operating loss for the 12-hour ambulance is as high as they claim, Pinette said they have been very transparent about their finances, and that other providers have backed up that amount.

While the county, cities, and fire departments will likely come up with $239,000 to keep two ambulances in service until June 30, those at Tuesday’s well-attended meeting recognized the need for a long-term funding solution, whether the agencies subsidize the ambulance going forward or form a special tax district.

Either way, county officials asked Pinette for SSV to request proposals from other ambulance providers.

“I just don’t want to write a blank check to just one provider,” Boes said.

Meanwhile, Supervisor Denise Carter said a group of stakeholders, which include the fire departments, would meet to come up with both short-and-long-term solutions to maintain the current service level of one 24-hour unit and one 12-hour unit.

“I still maintain that I want the two physical units in the county,” Supervisor Denise Carter said. “I want the commitment that we will have two vehicles in the county, while we study this problem. We can’t loose sight of this problem.” ■