COMMENTARY: Hall Ambulance Consultant Responds, We Counter-Respond

Dear Editor (November 1, 2008, from Gene Tackett, Private Ambulance Consultant):

The Mountain Enterprise is not interested in the truth about advanced life support (ALS) in Pine Mt., that is why I hung up on the obnoxious reporter. The best service for the taxpayers in Pine Mt. would be a paramedic and an ambulance. The voters were never given that choice on the ballot because the firefighters’ union didn’t want that to happen. Measure K will not give Pine Mt. a 24/7 paramedic. When the fire truck leaves Pine does the paramedic. It is not a complete ALS servicer or solution. Measure K is bad for the taxpayers but good for the Kern County firefighters’ union.


By Gary Meyer

The Mountain Enterprise contacted Gene Tackett precisely because we are interested in the truth. Mr. Tackett resorts to calling our reporter "obnoxious" for asking valid questions to obtain real information for voters, for whom improved emergency medical care is a life or death issue. Mr. Tackett hung up on the reporter because he does not want to answer questions such as:

1) What is your basis for claiming "Measure K is not ALS care"? Tackett won’t answer because he knows that Measure K provides funding for fully certified Advanced Life Support (ALS) firefighter-paramedics.

2) What is your basis for claiming Measure K does not provide both paramedics and ambulance service? Tackett won’t answer because he knows that Measure K would not change the existing ambulance services already in place through county contracts. In an email on November 3, Department of Emergency Medical Services Director Ross Elliott write: Hall Ambulance Service, Inc. is under contract with the County to provide ambulance service to Operating Area 8, which includes Pine Mountain Club. The outcome of Measure K will have absolutely no bearing or impact on ambulance service to Pine Mountain Club. If the measure is approved, ALS service will be provided by KCFD in augmentation to ALS services already provided by Hall. If the measure is disapproved, there will be no changes, Hall will continue to provide the required level of service to PMC.

3) What is your basis for claiming Kern County Fire Department (KCFD) does not support Measure K? Tackett hopes that voters don’t know that by law a county department is not allowed to take a position on an issue on the ballot—so this ‘non-support’ claim is a masquerade. He knows that top officials from KCFD (including Chief Thompson) have consistently attended meetings in the Pine Mountain community describing the preparations already made to launch the firefighter-paramedic program that will be funded by Measure K.

4) What is your basis for claiming that voters were not given the choice for a "complete advanced life support option"? The Board of Supervisors conducted a straw poll sent to all registered voters in Pine Mountain about what they wanted on the ballot. The majority said they wanted to vote on firefighter-paramedics only, not on private ambulance services. If Mr. Tackett does not know this, he has not done his homework. If he does know this, he is trying to deceive voters.

5) You make the comment: "When the fire truck leaves leaves Pine Mountain so does the paramedic" as a valid reason for voting against Measure K. How do you respond to "Yes on K" proponents who point out that Engine 58 almost never leaves Pine Mountain and that Chief Dennis Thompson has assured residents KCFD will provide a back-up paramedic to maintain a consistent paramedic presence in Pine Mountain? Thompson also confirmed that the range served by this firefighter paramedic will be from the Mil Potrero Y on the east to just over the saddle on the west. How do you respond to Measure K proponents who point out that a private ambulance (if ever stationed in Pine Mountain) would be required to leave far more often and for more hours than a fire engine would?

Perhaps Mr. Tackett hangs up on our reporter because he finds it difficult to give credible answers to these questions.

Tackett developed the misleading mailers on behalf of several private ambulance companies in Kern County who have banded together to protect their profit margins, apparently fearing there may be a countywide movement toward ALS paramedic service in rural fire stations. If there is taxing to be done, they would prefer that rural areas give their tax money directly to the private ambulance service rather than a firefighter-paramedic. Are private companies concerned they will have to pay a better wage to their own paramedics if more jobs become available in the county for these skills?

In our view, enabling certified firefighter-paramedics to give lifesaving treatment to the public within a few minutes while heart and brain function can be rescued—rather than waiting 20 minutes, an hour or longer—would be good public policy that could save lives for less money than private ambulance companies would charge. Hall Ambulance tried stationing an ambulance in Pine Mountain and decided to discontinue the service due to "insufficient call volume." That translates to insufficient profits. Mr. Tackett’s mailers and tactics reflect Mr. Hall’s desire to have $125 a year (to start) from each parcel in Pine Mountain, plus a rent-free office and a facility for his personnel built at the Pine Mountain taxpayer’s expense. This is what he told the Department of Emergency Medical Services he wanted in order to provide service there.

In the words of one Ventura County firefighter who chose not to be named: "Putting public safety in the hands of profit-making companies is usually a bad idea. When the choice between public safety and profit margins arises, you can bet a private company will go with profit margins."

These private ambulance companies, including Hall Ambulance Service, have authorized Mr. Tackett to misinform the public in an effort to try and frighten voters into making a poor choice at the ballot box.

We say voters should vote "Yes" on Measure K. It’s the right thing to do for the public’s safety, it’s the right thing to do for your family and, at less than twenty cents per day, it’s also the right thing to do for your pocket book.

Gene Tackett’s decision to hang up on our reporter three times is ample evidence that he does not want to answer questions within the community whose safety he is trying to undermine.

This is part of the October 31, 2008 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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