Friday, October 09, 2015 • 01:53

VC Fire District begins paramedic service locally

The Valley Center Fire Department team line up to celebrate the beginning of a new era for the department, when all engines carry paramedics. It is an era that began on October 1. photo by Roadrunner Photo.
October 08, 2015
October 1, 2015—As of today, if you need an ambulance in Valley Center, you will get the highest level of medical attention available.

It's the service that "people in Valley Center always thought they had," in the words of VC Fire District director Steve Hutchinson. At 8 a.m. on Thursday, October 1, paramedic service began in Valley Center and in the parts of the Back-country that are served by the VC ambulance service and Mercy Medical.

It's also the service that Fire Chief Joe Napier promised to deliver to the fire department when he took over as chief last December.

The department answered the first medical call shortly after the new service went online Thursday. According to Napier, "the first one worked the way it's supposed to." Napier made the comment during a presentation Thursday afternoon at the Lilac Fire Station No. 1.

Members of the VCFPD medical team, including (top, from left) Ryan Nutt, Capt. Mike Shore, Phil Ortiz, Adam Delaney (bottom), Gabe Rhoads, Capt. Dave Loo, Robert Westler and Daniel Brown. photo by Roadrunner Photo.
From now on when the department answers a call, a paramedic will be available each on the squad vehicle and the fire engine. Whoever arrives first will be able begin administering the life-saving procedures that include setting up IVs and giving drugs and pain relief.

Chief Napier praised the fire board: "This never would have happened if we didn't have the support and trust of the board to take the leap of faith that was required to bring about this change." He noted that the board was willing to shoulder the added liability associated with the additional coverage that is now provided. "It puts our service in a light that is brighter than anything."

Despite the risks, Napier said that the board felt it was necessary to "provide the ultimate customer service that you can provide to the community."

He noted that being able to provide the service to the community without going to the taxpayers for additional money is "huge." He added, "I can't say enough about the private public partnership between the district and Mercy Medical." The district's partnership with Mercy goes back about a decade. Raising the costs to ambulance patients who don't live in the community will help fund the new service without having to find a new source of revenue for the department.

Valley Center Fire Chief Joe Napier Thursday declared, "The first one worked the way it's supposed to." VCFPD's paramedic service went online without a hitch. photo by Roadrunner Photo.
Mercy worked with firefighters and board members from Valley Center to build the paramedic program "from the ground up," said Napier.

"We were ready to go by the September 1 goal but the rest of the world wasn't ready. But today at 8 a.m. we quadrupled our Advance Life Support (ALS)."

The district also received assistance from the San Pasqual Tribal Fire Department. One of the ambulances will be designated to serve the reservation and firefighters from the San Pasqual department have said they would like to take paramedic training so that they can staff it.

Fireboard President Weaver Simonsen gave a "back at ya" shout-out to the chief, saying that the board gave Napier their trust because he earned it.

VCFPD's fire team lines up to celebrate the inauguration of full paramedic service for the area. photo by Roadrunner Photo.
"What an amazing individual we have and what an amazing program he has put together!" he said. "There is a reason that he has our confidence." He described how when Napier was hired that he adopted as his first goal to raise the level of medical care given to patients."

Rick Roesch, president of Mercy said, "This is something that I fervently believe in. Every patient deserves a paramedic. There is no doubt in my mind that we are going to start saving some lives."

On September 30, there were two basic life support (BLS) fire engines and one ALS (advanced life support) ambulance serving Valley Center. If the Mercy ALS unit was on a call and another call came in only a BLS Engine would respond. A BLS unit is only allowed to help the patient on the outside of the body. An ALS unit can push life saving drugs—for instance in a cardiac patient. According to Roesch, "The ALS engine has a much better chance of saving the patients' life than a BLS engine."

As of October 1 there are now two ALS engines in VC: a Rescue Paramedic squad, and one ALS ambulance.

Fire Chief Joe Napier (left) Rick Roesch, president of Mercy Medical and Fire Board President Weaver Simonsen chat after the ceremony. photo by Roadrunner Photo.
To pay for this increased level of service Mercy will raise its rates. Mercy is a non-subsidized service. That means that only the users of the service pay the bill. In addition, resident of Valley Center pay a lower rate than non-residents. Mercy plans to increase rates for patients by about $150.

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