As the chief of the Trinity Center Volunteer Fire Department, I strongly support and urge a YES vote on both Measures D and E.
There is too much at stake to allow Trinity County Life Support to halt operations. Measure D and E will not only allow TCLS to continue operations but will improve their service to our community. The TCLS staff currently works very difficult 72-hour shifts and, often, get paid for only 48 of those hours. The other end of that spectrum is the crew who is running calls during the night may get little or no sleep during their shift. This may result in lapses in care, accidents and poor general health, both short- and long-term. Passage of Measure D and E would allow for recruitment of additional personnel, improved retention of those personnel with better pay and shifts and a higher level of service.
Part of the problem is the shortage of reimbursement from private pay, Medicare and Medi-Cal. By forming a district, additional reimbursement becomes available and turns what is today an annual shortfall into what should be a profitable operation.
One of the major issues facing your local fire departments, should TCLS discontinue operations, is the lack of timely ambulance transport for patients. Few of our fire personnel have training above the Title 22 First Aid class. Our local fire department personnel do an awesome job and respond all hours of the day and/or night to your emergency. However, without TCLS our fire departments face the prospect of very long wait times with critically ill patients and inadequate skills, training and medical certification to deal with your illness/injury.
Within the TCLS response area there are only three fire departments who operate an ambulance. One is Hyampom and the other two are Trinity Center and Coffee Creek in the far northern area of the county. Trinity Center operates an Advanced Life Support ambulance (when their lone paramedic is available) and Coffee Creek has a Basic Life Support ambulance. Both these services rely on TCLS to meet with them in the North County area to take over patient care and continue transport to Weaverville or Redding. If TCLS is no longer available, we will not be able to provide the same level of service. We cannot afford (cost or time) to transport our patients to Weaverville and, especially, Redding. Plus, the extended out-of-service time for these transports would take our responders out of the area for extended periods, making them unavailable for other emergencies.
One option is to fly more patients in medical helicopters. However, these patents still need transport to the Landing Zone and few fire departments have the capability or legal ability to transport patients. Medical helicopters are very costly, too. Unless you have very good insurance or are a subscriber, a medical helicopter will cost you thousands of dollars. And, even with a membership, if your medical condition does not justify calling for a helicopter, your insurance may refuse to cover costs. This puts the burden right back on you. Also, medical helicopters are not always available due to weather or already being on a call.
Please, $83 a year is a small price to pay for knowing there will be a well-trained crew and properly equipped ambulance responding to your emergency.