Idaho EMS agency converting to paramedic-level service

Located in a rural area and unaffiliated with any hospitals, Gooding County EMS officials feel they can better serve the public as a paramedic-level agency


Julie Wootton-Greener
The Times-News, Twin Falls, Idaho

GOODING — If you are injured in Gooding County, there’s a good chance that an emergency medical technician will be the first to come take care of you. But that could soon change.

Gooding County is pushing to make changes to its ambulance service — converting to a paramedic level within the next couple of months and looking for land to build a new station.

Gooding County is pushing to make changes to its ambulance service — converting to a paramedic level within the next couple of months and looking for land to build a new station. (Photo/Gooding County)
Gooding County is pushing to make changes to its ambulance service — converting to a paramedic level within the next couple of months and looking for land to build a new station. (Photo/Gooding County)

Gooding County EMS, which isn’t affiliated with any hospitals, has been staffed for years by emergency medical technicians. Since the county is remote, providing a higher paramedic-level service would allow for more advanced patient care and would be beneficial to the community, Gooding County Commission Chairman Mark Bolduc said.

Paramedics provide advanced life support, said Gooding County EMS director Barbara Porter. They can administer medications, IV fluids and conduct some invasive procedures such as for emergency airway access.

“It’s more of like a critical care level service,” she said, including for trauma and cardiac emergencies.

Most large cities in Idaho have paramedic-level service, St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center spokeswoman Michelle Bartlome wrote in an email to the Times-News.

Magic Valley Paramedics, which is owned and operated by St. Luke’s, has provided advanced life support for nearly three decades.

“Some of the smaller counties and cities provide either basic life support or intermediate life support, depending on volume and the financial support available,” Bartlome wrote in the email.

For Gooding County EMS, discussion has been underway for about two years about making the switch to paramedic-level service, Porter said.

Now, they’re just waiting on some supplies and equipment, and plan to make the transition within the next month or two.

“For the most part, we’re ready to go,” Porter said.

Gooding County EMS currently has employees with intermediate EMT certification. “Right now, we can do IV therapy and certain medications, as well as some cardiac monitoring,” Porter said.

Five current employees have already gone through the College of Southern Idaho’s paramedic program in order to prepare for the transition.

“Some of the employees took it upon themselves to go to paramedic school to be able to provide it for us,” Porter said.

Gooding County EMS has six paramedics — five full-time and one-part time — and at least 12 EMTs. It’s also looking to hire a couple more paramedics as backup, Porter said.

As Gooding County prepares to make the switch to paramedic-level service, its existing ambulance station on Seventh Avenue West in Gooding near the courthouse is obsolete, Bolduc said.

“It’s worn out for that type of use,” he said, noting the location also presents a safety issue since ambulances are driven in front of North Valley Academy, and the Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind.

The station is a “pretty public area” and people walk by frequently, Porter said. With a paramedic-level service, “we can’t have that kind of foot traffic through here. “

There’s also a need for more ambulance bays, said Gooding County EMS assistant director Jon Kepler.

A new station would provide better security for the supplies and equipment, Porter said, as well as more space for the 20-plus employees and a dedicated area for training.

Gooding County applied in fall 2018 for a federal Community Development Block Grant to assist with paying for building a new facility. The county made it through the first round of cuts in the grant application process, Bolduc said, and is waiting on a final decision.

The county is seeking property for a new ambulance station. The county sent solicitation letters to property owners from the south end of Gooding to Wendell, Bolduc said, and received nine responses from residents who are willing to sell their land.

County officials have identified the top four preferred sites: one on the north end of Wendell, one on the south end of Gooding that’s owned by the Gooding Fire District and two a couple of miles south of Gooding.

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©2019 The Times-News (Twin Falls, Idaho)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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