Sat. Feb 4th, 2023

Opinion Piece By Samuel Strait – January 20, 2023

For three decades Del Norte Ambulance (DNA) has been in service to this County
as a first responder to all of the County’s health care emergencies. 
During that entire run of thirty plus years there have been several
ambulance companies who have entered into the bidding to supplant DNA,
but it has always come down to DNA to have provided more than adequate
service to this community during each contractual period and to be
selected to continue to provide that service to the County’s unfortunates.

It;  therefore, was somewhat of a surprise when three of the County’s
five Supervisors elected to ignore the advice of the contracted over
sight entity, North Coast Emergency Services, and pursue the least
effective and most expensive alternative path to continue ambulance
service to the County with very little likelihood of any change in
ambulance service.  While most in the community will have little clear
knowledge of why this has occurred,  this story will expose several
components that make up that decision.

The story begins with the fact that we no longer live in times where
candles, kerosene lamps, open flames, and fireplaces dominate most
households and businesses.  Coupled with improved building materials,
building codes, and building inspections, fires no longer dominate the
calls that most fire houses attend when the tonal sounds.  With that
change in circumstance fire houses nation wide have began to look for
other means of making the investment in the local fire house appear
relevant, as such, rescues and health emergencies have become the
dominant mechanism for the fire house to remain important in their
respective communities.  This has become particularly so in the nation’s
volunteer fire departments in small rural communities.  Here locally our
fire fighters respond to but a few structure fires each year. Local
Dispatch recorded only a dozen structure fire calls during 2022, yet the
Crescent Fire Protection District claims to have been called out over
two thousand times during that same year, most of which were health
related emergencies, not fires.

While most folks in the community are filled with the visions of an
adrenaline filled surge of the heroic fire fighter rescuing the baby
from the burning building, reality has come in the form of most health
related emergencies in modern America are best served by the trained
professionals of an ambulance company. Firemen for the most part are
relegated to being often unnecessary or likely should have remained in
the fire house unless the ambulance service requested their attendance. 
Kind of like being relegated to being second class citizens in the
emergency services realm of first responders.

For years, because of this new dynamic, ambulance services have been
considered the usurpers by the fire services who wish to remain relevant
with little success while most in their respective communities continue
to believe that their fire house contains the local heroes essential to
the role of first responders.  Our local fire fighters are no different
and are reluctant to make the changes within their current future
visions that could restore some of that lost luster.

The recent vote by three members of the BOS will not make much of a
change in the results of who will serve Del Norte County in the future,
but will make the future of ambulance service more costly by adding
another layer of cost and bureaucracy to the process for NO benefit to
the Community.  The fire department will continue with its pointless
squabble over who gets to the site of the accident first and complain
about quality of service provided any ambulance service going forward
because they lack the ability to provide professional medical assistance
at the site of an accident and the inability to properly transport
anyone to a hospital. This has been for years and continues to be a
problem that has resulted in a flawed Ad Hoc committee report to the BOS
and a bias exposed by the fact that Del Norte Ambulance was given little
opportunity to respond to the anecdotal reporting given to a member of
the fire department, Darren Short, and our “government has the answer
for everything” Valerie Starkey hardly a neutral Ad Hoc committee.  This
failure was continued by a recent addition to the BOS, Joey Borges, who
also has ties to the fire department and made little effort to include
Del Norte Ambulance in his foray into the responsibility of being a
neutral party when evaluating a service vital to this community.  As to
vested interest one only has to look as to who has been selected to be
recipients of Crescent Fire and Rescue’s venture into a hybrid fire
department, some paid, most not.

While I am sure this will no doubt be distasteful for those that
continue to believe in the importance of the fire department, times have
changed, and many in the fire department/first responder realm have
made changes in personnel and equipment that reflect that change.  Our
local fire departments have not turned the page to this new reality. 
Hiring fire captains at Crescent Fire and Rescue is a clear sign that
they continue to believe their role is primarily directed at fighting
fires rather than attending to health related emergencies.  Responding
to health related calls only when requested by the ambulance service,
hiring paramedics rather than fire captains, and focusing on Rapid
Response Vehicles rather fire tenders would be of more benefit than
continuing the decades long feud with the ambulance service and would be
a step in the right direction, which includes the benefit of remaining a
useful tool in the emergency services tool box.

The pandering to the fire service by the three members of the BOS has
not been that benefit to the community and will likely allow the fire
department to continue along the path of marginal importance all the
while continuing their myth of an essential service when responding to
health related emergencies.  The conflict of the fire department and an
ambulance service is unlikely to end even if in the unlikely event that
another service manages to be successful in the bidding process.  The
new service will simply exchange becoming the target for the fire service.

The fact that the Ad Hoc reporting done by the committee was solely
focused on anecdotal information provided by the local fire departments
without much in the way of the same reporting by any other first
responder, the local hospital, the school district, or many of the local
public should have given pause to that committee.  Similarly the former
sheriff, current supervisor district five, Supervisor Wilson clearly had
a differing opinion about the rush to judgement offered by Supervisors
Short, Starkey, and Borges.  As the former Sheriff of Del Norte County
for a dozen years and intimately familiar with the nature of first
responders and their cooperation difficulties, it should have paid
dividends for the three to listen rather than make this perplexing
decision.  The final call to reason should have included more than
paying lip service to the advice by North Coast Emergency Services, whose
director patiently explained to the Board that it was their
recommendation that Del Norte Ambulance Service should be a recipient of
an Exclusive Operating Area (EOA) as had other Counties, Trinity and Humboldt,
because the accountability would be much greater and the ability to
terminate such an agreement would be much easier to accomplish.   Not so
for Supervisors Starkey, Short, and Borges.

2 thoughts on “No EOA For Del Norte Ambulance, What Was The BOS Thinking?”
  1. Once upon a time the board of supervisors created a ad hoc committee to inquire about the ambulance company.
    After months of research the Board of Supervisors presented their findings to the public during a BOS meeting. It was there that I discovered how unethical, professional, and lacking in ALS experience that I realized why we needed the fire tax. After all the ambulance company couldn’t make it on time even if you were dead.
    What was really mind boggling is to have these people stand up at the podium and bold face lie to the supervisors.
    Denial comes in all forms. The ambulance company can refuse to acknowledge and correct their problems and in their eyes nobody complained to them so there were no problems. DENIAL.
    Next.

    1. I appreciate your comment, but where are your facts, Linda? If you are referring to the recent 2022 Ad Hoc committee of Darren Short and Valerie Starkey, the complaint about their report was that it was story telling without facts. In addition, virtually all of the story telling came from the fire department which has a recognized long history of being unable to cooperate with the ambulance service. Much of the rest of the first responder community, Sheriff, Highway Patrol, Police, Del Norte Rescue, do not support the fire department’s version and seem to be saying the service is not perfect but adequate. In addition the ambulance service contract has been up for renewal multiple times in its history without previous references to significant performance lapses, so I ask you where are your facts? And then what has the fire tax by CFPD, which passed in a very suspicious fashion have anything to do with the controversy over the ambulance service? If the fire department was in the least bit concerned about the quality of service of the ambulance company, they would address the issue by hiring certified personnel that COULD address the issue. They did not, and choose to hire fire captains which are only of marginal value when fighting fires, which is something that they no longer do much of, a FACT that was easily arrived at when examining the Sheriff’s Department dispatch logs.
      Your reference to lack of ALS experience, is unfair, as many medical professionals lack such experience, particularly in a rural setting. Our small population often does not have a wide enough base of experience for a wide range of ailments that afflict human beings. Medical professionals with years of treatment experience cannot possibly know all there is to know about everything that chooses too be a health issue in a person. I can testify to that first hand.
      As far as nobody complaining about instances that the ambulance company had lapses over the years, that is a false assertion. Just in this past series of BOS meetings, ambulance service short comings were revealed by North Coast Emergency Services which is retained by the County (Trinity and Humboldt as well) to oversee ambulance services on the North Coast, and they stated for the record that they were aware of ambulance service issues, that those issues had been satisfactorily addressed, and that Del Norte Ambulance had been in their eyes cooperative. Further, they stated that other ambulance services under their oversight experienced similar issues that required corrective action much like DNA. Other first responders, other than the fire department, have had similar experiences with Del Norte Ambulance to the point that no one can figure out where all your hysteria comes from. Nobody is claiming Del Norte Ambulance is perfect including Del Norte Ambulance, that is an impossible standard to meet. It is just that Del Norte County needs an ambulance service no matter what any one who has an axe to grind with the current service says, because no one, including you Linda, has a ready made alternative to offer that is any better. That includes the huff and puff local fire departments. Besides, Linda, they, the local fire departments, will be unlikely to be satisfied by any ambulance service that offers service in the County because they are such “experts” in the field of ambulance service. Efforts in the past have sought to replace the current service with other providers without success. No one thus far has been able to offer a better alternative, including the local fire departments. What exactly are you looking for here Linda, blood from the proverbial Rock? Please comment further with something that will actually help.

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