Ambulance station has pulse in Woodlake
Exeter District Ambulance approves MOU with City, lease with Fire District; Woodlake boards will consider both next week
By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
EXETER – Woodlake is another step closer to having an ambulance stationed in town.
It was really two half steps. On Nov. 12, the Exeter District Ambulance Board unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the City of Woodlake and the Woodlake Fire District to provide ambulance service to the Woodlake community. In exchange, the City agrees to work with the public ambulance company to look into the potential annexation of the Woodlake city limits into the boundaries of the Exeter District Ambulance. This would add additional property tax revenue to the tax-funded ambulance district as Woodlake is not currently covered by a hospital district. The MOU will come before the Woodlake City Council on Dec. 10.
At its Nov. 26 meeting, the Exeter District Ambulance board unanimously voted to approve a lease agreement with the Woodlake Fire District (WFD) for use of an auxiliary building as a posting station for an ambulance crew. The lease on the building, located at 120 N. Magnolia St. between the fire station and the museum behind Miller Brown Park, would be $750 per month for the first two years and then increase $50 per month per year for the remaining three years of the five-year lease. This is lower than the initial offer of $1,000 per month.
The 1,320 square foot building is currently occupied by Ballet Folklórico del Lago, whose lease will end on June 30, 2019. WFD has already agreed to invest up to $30,000 to make improvements to the building, such as adding a small kitchen, creating a bedroom and a living room area for crews to stay while they are on-call.
If city approves the MOU and the fire district approves the lease, ambulance district manager Peter Sodhy said EDA would probably begin with a 12-hour daytime shift in Woodlake to test out the response times, calls and collections from Woodlake. Longterm, the goal would be to have a full-time ambulance posting in Woodlake, a strategic post that would allow EDA crews to respond to calls in Ivanhoe and eastern Visalia.
EDA currently operates three ambulance each day. One rig posts 24 hours per day in Exeter, another splits time between Exeter and Farmersville and the third rig spends half the week in Lemon Cove, splitting the week with American Ambulance of Visalia, and the other half in Lindsay, where it splits time with Imperial Ambulance of Porterville. Now that all of EDA’s ambulances have been repaired, Sodhy said a fourth ambulance is available for posting in Woodlake.
“This really fits in with our trial period,” Sodhy said. “This will give us a quarterly review to make sure its all working out as planned.”
Until the dance company’s lease is up, the agreement offers to rent a portion of the fire station, 216 N. Naranjo Blvd., to the ambulance district for a flat rate of $375 per month, including utilities and Internet. WFD also reduced this rental rate from the original $500 per month. Woodlake Fire Chief Anthony Perez said the lease agreement will come before his three-member board during a special meeting sometime in 10 days.
“This is a really good thing for Woodlake,” Chief Perez said. “This is something this community has wanted for a long time.”
As EDA may gain one posting station it will lose another. Sodhy said the public ambulance has until Jan. 7, 2019 to find a new place for its crews to stay while on-call in Lindsay after receiving notice from the Lindsay Department of Public Safety that they are rebuilding their fire station. Sodhy said the ambulance has been posting at the downtown fire station for the several years but can no longer share its space as they have added more equipment to the department.
EDA Board President Adam Pfenning, a Tulare County Fire captain, told fellow board members that County Fire was in the process of building a station west of Lindsay that might be acceptable for use, as the City of Lindsay is considering contracting with TCFD for fire services, similar to Exeter and Strathmore. Following his comments, the EDA board voted to initiate a search for a new location in Lindsay at the Nov. 12 meeting.
Sodhy said posting stations have several requirements including a bathroom with a shower, a bedroom with at least two beds, a small kitchen, and at least one designated parking space for the ambulance. Anyone with available property should contact EDA by calling 559-594-5250.
Also at the Nov. 26 meeting, Sodhy gave an update on the possibility of a paid-call ambulance returning to Three Rivers. Sodhy’s interim plan is to create a situation for the community to be able to attract EMTs willing to become paramedics and who would relocate to the foothill community. Long term, Sodhy said he hopes to set up a system to recruit and retain resident paramedics.
In addition to six quasi-surgical procedures such as transtracheal jet ventilation (inserting a needle in the neck to open an airway) and decompression of a collapsed lung, paramedics can also use five more medications such as dopamine, which keeps blood pressure low in heart attack victims until they can get to an emergency room than EMTs.
Sodhy said he has approached several community groups to help cover the cost of housing, food and utilities for the resident paramedics. “It’s mostly moving slow due to the holidays,” Sodhy said. “We expect things will speed up in January.”
The plan could cut Three Rivers response time in half, as EDA currently responds to those calls from the fire station in Lemon Cove. The community used to be served by Three Rivers Ambulance, an all-volunteer ambulance company, that was forced to fold in 2010, in part because it was unable to find any resident paramedics. Sodhy said Central California Emergency Management Services Agency (CCEMSA), which oversees ambulance companies in Tulare, Kings, Fresno and Madera counties, has tentatively given the plan its blessing to move forward.