Large crowd shows up for ambulance issue
The Coulee Dam Town Hall was filled to capacity last Wednesday as EMTs, firefighters and townspeople pushed back at city officials for taking on the EMTs a week earlier.
Those speaking cited numerous times that EMTs had assisted family members and friends when they needed ambulance service.
That support was appreciated, but fell a little off the mark.
It had all started when a state inspection of the town’s ambulance service turned up a dozen or so issues that Mayor Greg Wilder stated had been 80 percent fixed by council time.
Wilder said he anticipated that all the problems would be resolved by mid-June.
In bringing up the issue before the council, Wilder said his goal was to get the ambulance service moving at its highest efficiency level.
A number of the issues were minor, such as candy wrappers on the floor of the ambulance, but the accumulation of things caught the eye of state inspector, Michael C. Lopez.
His list of problems included: Ambulance exterior compartments are disorganized; interior of the ambulance is unkempt (dirt and debris on the floor and shelves); driver’s compartment has a large amount of trash and a bag of candy bars on the floor; missing identification on the front of the ambulance; marker lights are out on the lower left rear and side; ambulance license plate mounted on windshield; missing splints for arms and legs; missing pediatric splints arms and legs; AED not in working order; airway devices located in one small cabinet making it awkward to access; and patient compartment very disorganized.
Lopez’s findings went on to report the lack of training records, and the fact that non-certified individuals respond on some ambulance calls.
The entire system was shut down by the town while corrections were made and Wilder invited Grant County EMS Council Chair Richard Paris to assist in an inspection.
Wilder told the crowd that more than one EMT made a complaint at town hall.
Gina Seaver speaking at the meeting criticized the mayor for providing the names of two persons to the media. She said it could have been handled in a better way. Wilder said it was all part of the public record.
The investigation by the state centered around ambulance Lt. Ben Alling, who also happens to sit on the town council. The report last week noted that ambulance Director Deborah Jimenez had been removed from that post, though she still is in the EMT unit.
Seaver asked if their names had been used by the mayor to get back at them, and he replied, “No.”
Wilder stated that the council might have to pass a referendum in regard to Alling in that it was a violation of state law that he serve as a volunteer fireman and EMT and hold elective office.
After Paris’ inspection he reported that the ambulance was usable and it was back in service.
Diane Canady, after listening to the back-and-forth exchanges said if any of the Coulee Dam EMTs wanted to take a leave, they could come up to Grand Coulee and help out.
“In my 25 years as an EMT in Grand Coulee I have never seen a written complaint,” Canady said. Coulee Dam had received six, she noted.
Bonnie Femling, a longtime EMT and former town council member, asked Wilder if he wanted her resignation. “Because if you do, I have my things to turn in,” she stated, adding, “I can’t think of a finer bunch of people to work with.”
Wilder said he didn’t want her resignation and went on to say how much he appreciated their service to the town and area.
One person stated that the mayor had made a lot of people angry.
Disputes between EMTs was also into the mix. Wilder said certain EMTs would not respond to a call if another EMT responded.
“I want our service to carry the highest level of professionalism,” Wilder stated. The town has seven EMTs.
In view of the large number of people who turned out, the meeting was somewhat subdued.