Schoesler offers bill to help rural communities maintain ambulance service

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 5198, has been referred to the Senate Housing and Local Government Committee, where it is scheduled to receive a public hearing on Jan. 21 at 8 a.m. Schoesler introduced similar legislation in 2019.

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. It inadvertently left out ambulance services shared by two or more municipalities, such as Garfield and Farmington.

“This bill would 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.

Schoesler’s proposal 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.”