Schoesler bill changes law to aid rural ambulance services

OLYMPIA…Knowing that rural areas face special challenges when it comes to emergency responders, Sen. Mark Schoesler has successfully proposed a change in state law that eases the first aid-training requirement for volunteer ambulance drivers.

The governor signed Senate Bill 5751 last week following its unanimous passage by the Legislature. The change will take effect July 23.

State law requires an ambulance driver to have at least a first-aid certificate recognized by the state Department of Health, unless there are at least two emergency medical technicians present to attend to a patient.

That standard can be a challenge to meet in areas that rely on volunteers as first responders, said Schoesler. The change made by his bill will allow rural ambulance services to use drivers who don’t have medical training as long as an EMT is also present, and the driver doesn’t provide medical care.

“I think many of us would rather have a volunteer ambulance driver with less training if it allows the ambulance to get rolling sooner,” said Schoesler, who is Senate majority leader.

Schoesler, R-Ritzville, also noted a hometown connection to the policy change.

“My work on this legislation was inspired by folks like Maynard Lund of Ritzville, who gave up so much personal time over 15-plus years as a volunteer emergency responder and still has ideas for keeping volunteer services strong,” Schoesler said.

“It would be nice if every person driving an ambulance had medical or first-aid training, but Mr. Lund and I know that isn’t realistic in rural areas like ours,” he explained.