Schoesler bill to help rural ambulance service advances in Senate

It can be a challenge for very small, rural communities to provide ambulance service for their citizens. A bill prime-sponsored by Sen. Mark Schoesler aims to make it easier for two tiny Whitman County towns, Garfield and Farmington, to continue providing joint ambulance service.

Schoesler’s proposal, Senate Bill 5592, was approved this week by the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee. The measure is now before the Senate Rules Committee, one step from a full Senate vote.

A 2017 state law allows rural ambulance-service providers to overcome personnel shortages by allowing ambulance drivers who don’t have first aid or medical training. But this new law inadvertently left out ambulance services shared by two or more municipalities, such as Garfield and Farmington.

“The point of this bill is to let shared ambulance services continue operations so these communities don’t have to turn to other providers farther away simply because the driver of the ambulance isn’t trained in first aid,” said Schoesler, R-Ritzville.

The proposal specifically would permit ambulance services established by an association comprising two or more municipalities in a rural area to use a driver without any medical or first-aid training.

“My bill and the law it would update both work because when an ambulance carries a patient to a hospital, the driver really doesn’t have a role in caring for the patient,” said Schoesler. “The EMTs in the back really are the persons in charge. The driver simply needs to be at least 18, pass a background check, and possess a valid driver’s license with no restrictions. This is a common-sense proposal that uses the co-op principle to meet the needs of rural communities.”