Ambulance Ordinance

October-November, 2006
Read "DRAFT version 3 with Comments from Agencies"
Read "DRAFT version 5; Ambulance Performance Standards"
Read Jan de Leeuw’s critique of the proposed Performance Standards
Read EMS Director Ross Elliott’s response to Jan de Leeuw’s critique

December 5, 2006
Read "DRAFT Revisions Ver. d, Ambulance Performance Standards" (current draft)

May 31, 2007
Related story: "Grand Jury Recommends Full Time Paramedic Services for Pine Mountain"

June 15, 2007
Read "Ambulance Performance Standards Revisions" scheduled for vote by Board of Supervisors June 19, 2007.

Are Rural Families at Risk from New County Rules?
Analyst Concerned Ambulance Ordinance Fails to Require Accountability in Rural Areas

December 1, 2006

Commentary By Patric Hedlund

The head of UCLA’s statistics department has issued a critical analysis of the method by which Kern County proposes to hold ambulance companies accountable under a new ordinance. But a push by supervisors and the Department of Emergency Medical Services to quickly finalize the ordinance before meaningful community input has been sought may mean that critical questions go unasked—and unanswered.

Pine Mountain resident Karen Bailey’s husband died on February 15, 2005 while she and emergency first responders from the local fire station struggled to save his life without the Advanced Life Support (ALS) services which, in Kern County, can only be administered by ambulance crews.

Kern County firefighters are not paramedics and are not equipped to provide ALS, but they were at the Bailey home within nine minutes. They had tears on their cheeks as their oxygen supplies ran out, neighbors said. The ambulance did not arrive for over 75 minutes.

Harold Bailey’s death began a movement in the Mountain Communities to bring a paramedic/firefighter pilot program to the rural areas of Kern County.

During the following 21 months, residents learned about the bureaucratic structure of the Kern County EMS, directed by Ross Elliott. Numerous public meetings concerning ambulance deficiencies and the need for a firefighter/paramedic program in Pine Mountain and Frazier Park have attracted standing-room-only crowds. Elliott often arrived with Darlene Dennison, spokesperson for Hall Ambulance Service which is owned by Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall.

In the past six months however, public meetings have given way to behind-closed-doors sessions including Elliott, Kern County Fire Department administrators, Supervisor Ray Watson or his representative, a small group of citizens from Pine Mountain and Dennison. This summer, Hall opened a weekend station in Pine Mountain.

The mayor’s company was grandfathered into a contract to begin July 1, 2007, giving Hall Ambulance Service the lion’s share of Kern County as its Exclusive Operating Area (EOA), including this region.

When this newspaper called to ask why so little time had been allocated for the public to review the merits of the EOA ordinance, Elliott said “don’t worry, the people up there [the Mountain Communities] are going to be most interested in the performance standards segment of the ordinance. I guarantee they will have ample opportunity to be involved in developing those.”

That did not happen. Now the Kern County Board of Supervisors intends to vote on the performance standards on December 5—without adequate opportunity for rural communities to have input to the ordinance.

The standards were crafted during five workshops, several held while the Mountain Communities were in turmoil, evacuating due to the onrushing Day fire. Not one of the five workshops has been advertised by Kern County EMS with The Mountain Enterprise, nor was the editor or the publisher notified of the workshops­—despite the promise by Elliott. On Monday, Nov. 20, Elliott said he had “overlooked” notifying The Mountain Enterprise in time for us to notify the community. Karen Bailey, a realtor and former Kaiser Permanente program director, submitted extensive comments to EMS about the first drafts of the ordinance and is well-known to Elliott, but was also “overlooked” regarding the workshops, “I was never notified; I know I wasn’t,” she said in an interview.

Records on the EMS website (follow link at beginning of this article) indicate comments from ambulance companies, Kern County Fire Department and two hospitals were utilized in the drafting of the ordinance. Citizen comments are not reflected in the documents.

The nine questions and critiques submitted by statistician Jan de Leeuw, a Cuddy Valley resident, will be included in an appendix to the report, Elliott said, adding, “The public trust is something that I hold sacred.” Next week, in The Mountain Enterprise, we will review the ordinance and the criticisms, offering Elliott and Supervisors an opportunity to comment.

This is part of the July 25, 2014 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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