Volunteer ambulances in Monument and Long Creek are back in service.
Both ambulances, staffed by community volunteers under Blue Mountain Hospital District management, have responded to local emergency calls in both cities in the northern part of the county this year, hospital CEO Derek Daly said.
Other new policies also aim to reduce response and travel times for patients. The full-time hospital emergency medical services employees who staff the ambulances based at the hospital in John Day are now at the hospital 24 hours per day, in shifts, rather than being on-call, to respond quicker, Daly said. The volunteer ambulances, including those in Prairie City and Seneca, have also been directed to begin transporting patients toward the hospital to meet ambulances dispatched from the hospital halfway, he said.
“We’ve been through some challenges, but I think we’ve got a really positive path moving forward,” Daly said.
Challenges and disagreements between the hospital district and local volunteer agencies had caused problems for about a year and a half, he said, leading to both northern ambulances being taken out of service. Some volunteers left, and others let their qualifications lapse. He said compliance with federal and state regulations was one component in the problem, so he recently held training and orientation to help clarify the guidelines, and some of the volunteers have returned.
Oversight of the ambulance crews had also been transferred to a doctor in Pendleton, but Dr. Keith Thomas, a surgeon at Blue Mountain Hospital, has now taken on that role as well.
“It’s always good to have local physicians providing the support and oversight for the things that we’re doing,” Daly said. “It’s been great working with him in this capacity.
“I can see some of the progressions we’ve made in the last couple of months since I’ve been here, and I know we’ve had good communication, good dialogue with people,” he said. “I really think we are going to be able to move forward and do some good things and get back to facilitating local access to health care as best as we can.”