Historic Paramedic Quest Comes to Vote

By Patric Hedlund with reporting by Frances Durocher and Edie Stafford

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (Tuesday, July 29, 2008 at 11:20 a.m.) — Pine Mountain has won the right to vote on a historic measure in the November general election. If two-thirds of those voting agree to a $70 per parcel annual assessment, the first firefighter-paramedic service in Kern County will begin. Although Kern County Fire Department is the 10th largest in California, it is the only one among the top 15 to have no such service. On July 29 the Kern County Board of Supervisors agreed to allow the question to be put on the ballot.

In April, led by Supervisor Ray Watson, the county board rejected a free one-year firefigher-paramedic pilot program proposed by Kern County Fire Chief Dennis Thompson. It was to be financed by state training funds. In turn, sixty-seven percent of mountain voters cast ballots for Watson’s opponent in June’s supervisor race. Hall Ambulance Service, owned by Mayor Harvey Hall of Bakersfield, has exclusive contracts with the county to provide paramedic and medical transport service to 87 percent of the Kern County population.

On July 29, Pine Mountain Club POA Board Chair Ron Quintana said the board has backed the firefighter-paramedic initiative for years. In response to a question from Watson, Assistant County Counsel Steve Schuett said the funds raised through this specific CSA-40 assessment can be used only for firefighter-paramedics, not  for ambulance services.

Medical transport will still be provided by Hall Ambulance to Pine Mountain, but those in favor of the measure believe that patients will receive quicker life support services from firefighter paramedics in the local station, equipped with Advanced Life Support skills and equipment, to stabilize those in need while waiting the 25 minutes to an hour that it can take for a Hall ambulance to arrive from Frazier Park or from locations off the mountain. In icy conditions, Hall ambulance has refused to come into the area, leaving residents to transport an injured person several miles to the ambulance themselves. During such an occurrence in January 2008, it took four hours between the 911 call and final arrival of one Pine Mountain resident to a hospital. Residents say having an ALS firefighter paramedic close by is a necessary link in the chain of care.

This is part of the July 25, 2008 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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