Senate passes Schoesler’s rural ambulance bill

The Senate today approved a bill prime-sponsored by Sen. Mark Schoesler that would make it easier for two tiny Whitman County towns to continue providing joint ambulance service.

Schoesler’s proposal, Senate Bill 5198, was passed 48-1. It now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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 Farmington and Garfield.

“This bill would allow the continued operations of shared ambulance services so communities like Farmington and Garfield 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.”