Source: Google News
CLARK COUNTY — The public fire department that covers Ridgefield, La Center and Woodland says it is considering a levy to hire more paramedics because the private ambulance company they contract with is taking longer to reach those in need.
Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue says the department is seeing an “exceedingly long response time” from the ambulance company American Medical Response, or AMR. In a statement released Thursday, the department reports responses for the ambulance company to reach the service area has increased by about 9% since 2019. Responses over 20 minutes long have increased 109%.
“That is too long for our citizens to wait for life-saving paramedic services,” said Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue Chief John Nohr.
An AMR spokesperson said the company has met or exceeded the response time requirements for the service area since their contract with the city of Vancouver began in 2015. Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue says the department’s contract “piggybacks” off the agreement with the city and AMR.
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Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue says the contract was written when the department’s service area north of 179th Street near Battle Ground was considered lower populated and “AMR was allowed 20 minutes to respond to 90% of the incidents.”
The area’s population has skyrocketed over the last decade. Ridgefield’s population increased 116% from 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. Census. La Center’s population increased 21% and Woodland’s population increased 18% during the same time period.
The population increase mirrors the area’s increase in emergency calls.
Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue responded to roughly 18% more emergency calls in 2021 compared to the year before, and 57% more since 2016, according to Thursday’s report. The department says, overall, the time to respond to high-priority emergencies has increased 11% since 2019.
In addition to longer waits for ambulances, Nohr said the department’s limited staff stretched across five response units forces staff to sometimes travel further to reach emergency calls when closer staff are already out.
Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue said its board is considering asking voters to approve a levy to hire 21 more personnel, including paramedics to offer quicker life-saving services the ambulance company is not providing. The levy would also pay for two new department ambulances, as well as hire an EMS trainer and three more firefighters to increase response times.
Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue says the levy would cost up to $250 a year for the owner of a $500,000 home, and be between $0.45 to 0.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. People can comment on the proposed levy Thursday at the fire commission’s board meeting in person at Station 21 in Ridgefield or over Zoom by accessing a link on clarkfr.org.