I have a few observations about the recent Bend Bulletin editorial on the merger (takeover) of Jefferson County EMS by Jefferson County Fire Dept.
First: The panel set up to study the takeover was appointed by Mayor Allen and the chairman is his mayoral campaign manager. While I do not know who the other people on this panel are, this seems to me to be biased.
Second: Both the fire chief and the fire board of directors have said they do not want the ambulance, so why is Rick pushing this, you may ask. Well, as a matter of fact, the fire department's budget is down because of the slow economy and Rick has said more than once he wants to use the operating capital and vehicle purchase moneys that Jefferson County EMS has in the bank. He wants this money so the fire department can buy equipment they can not afford at this time. This was verified by Chief Cordes at one of the panel meetings a couple of weeks ago.
Third: Since Jefferson County EMS does not get any tax money (which they did not mention) and we own our building as well as all the supplies and equipment, I fail to see how this would save any money. Historically, fire paramedics make about twice the wages as private or third service paramedics, which means the wages would have to be more in order to attract and keep experienced people to run the ambulances. We have been told they do not want the paramedics now at Jefferson County EMS (we are too old). We also do not want to be firemen. If we did, we would have done it a long time ago instead of spending an average of over twenty years in the private or third service sector, even though it was for a lot less money.
Last: Bend Fire Chief's statement was very misleading. While it may be true that around 90 percent of the ambulances are fire based, he failed to mention those are also, by a great majority, basic life support/totally volunteer agencies like Fossil and Wasco County. For advanced life support ambulances, over 60 percent are private and third service like JCEMS or hospital based. These percentages hold true not only in Oregon but throughout the country.
Almost all of the state's largest cities like Portland, Hillsboro, Gresham and Lake Oswego, in fact all of the Portland Metro area, and the Medford area, are served by private ambulance companies. I can name more but will stop here.
This same thing holds true for the rest of the country, with most of the major cities either private or third service such as Boston, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, as well as most of Southern California. Even New York City has several private and hospital based ambulance agencies. Again, I could go on.
To finalize, just because Bend is fire based, it does not make it better, only more expensive. Oh, by the way, Bend has several paramedics working their ambulances who are not cross trained, they are just ambulance people.
Remember, once they take over the taxpayers will have no choice but to either pay more or expect cuts. We on the other hand, have no plans to ever ask the voters for a tax levy, unlike all other taxing districts I know about.