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Fire department may add additional emergency medical services

GTNS photo by David Hotle

Riverside Fire Chief Chad Smothers discusses future plans of the department, including possibly adding a paramedic service to the city’s emergency management service, with the Riverside City Council.
GTNS photo by David Hotle Riverside Fire Chief Chad Smothers discusses future plans of the department, including possibly adding a paramedic service to the city’s emergency management service, with the Riverside City Council.

RIVERSIDE — The Riverside Fire Department may soon be expanding the department’s emergency medical services (EMS) to include more advanced procedures and to transport patients.

During the annual fire department report at the Riverside City Council meeting Monday, March 4, Fire Chief Chad Smothers reported the department is in the early stages of adding the additional services. Currently, the department’s emergency medical services act as first responders with the Washington County Ambulance Service and are responsible for performing many lifesaving tasks, including transportation. Also, according to statistics Smothers showed, response time for the ambulance, headquartered in Washington, is usually about 26 minutes.

“If you are a critical EMS patient, that is a long time,” Smothers said. “Our service is an EMT basic service. We can take vitals. We can administer oxygen. We can do CPR. We provide basic lifesaving skills until we can get a paramedic on scene to provide advanced care.”

The Washington County Ambulance Service staffs two ambulances on call all the time. Smothers said the service is very busy running calls.

Smothers explained at the state level, legislators are considering allowing cities to tax for EMS coverage.

“I know there are talks of Richard Young (director of the service) retiring and selling the service,” Smothers said. “I’m trying to keep our options opened.”

Outfitting the existing EMS vehicle for the additional responsibilities is expected to cost about $70,000. Smothers also explained a service providing transportation is also additional work. He said ambulances charge patients for transport to recover money

The Riverside Fire Department is made up of volunteers. Of those volunteers, 16 are EMS qualified and two are qualified to be paramedics.

Smothers said when the department gathers more information, he hopes to discuss the possibility with the council.

“We aren’t even close to doing that, but we are researching it,” Smothers said. “We are always looking at ways to provide better medical coverage for the citizens of Riverside.”