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Willapa Harbor Herald
Lewis County News
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(360) 942-3466 • PO Box 706, Raymond, WA 98577

DOH dragging feet in re-licensing District 20

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Lewis/Cowlitz Fire District 20 still has yet to hear back about a plan to reinstate its ambulance transportation license after it was downgraded at the beginning of June.

District 20 had contacted the Department of Health (DOH) last year after officially merging the fire districts in Vader and Ryderwood to change the name on their ambulance license, but were told they would have to apply for a new one. In doing so, officials said they would have to apply for an aid car license (capable of providing on-scene assistance only) rather than a transportation license (capable of delivering patients from site to site) because District 20 could not meet state requirements to have two medics during transportation as they only have one.

This notice of a potential downgrade was given in March and District Chief Rich Underdahl insisted District 20 has access to more than one medic through its relationship with Lewis County Medic One as well as neighboring fire districts in Toledo and Winlock, who can send an extra medic to the scene of a District 20 response and thus fulfill the need for two medics during transportation.

This was not initially seen as a viable option and District 20 lost their transportation license June 1. Since that time, leaders of local fire districts, as well as Medic One, have sent a letter to DOH declaring their support for District 20 in regard to the sharing of medics when needed and asked that steps be taken to reinstate their transportation license.

Along with such a show of support, Underdahl was informed a month ago by DOH that District 20 could get their license back if medics from the surrounding emergency response groups would add District 20 as their secondary entity, thus showing officially that District 20 had adequate support.

However, DOH has yet to give this assurance in writing nor say how many medics would need to participate despite both Underdahl and Medic One Operations Chief Grant Wiltbank insisting on a reply.

At this time, local medics are being encouraged to sign District 20 as their secondary entity and Underdahl reported Thursday at least two individuals have shown interest (a medic from Lewis County Fire District 2 as well as a former District 20 medic.). But Underdahl said he does not know if two secondaries will be sufficient as DOH has yet to respond to requests for clarification of expectations.

Wiltbank said more local medics are being encouraged to sign as secondaries with District 20, stating an online form is required for the process as well as approval from Lewis County Medical Program Director Patrick O’Neal, who had been designated by the state to oversee all medics in the county. Wiltbank also added he is willing to use allies within DOH to help speed up the process and bring resolution to the licensing issue.

In the mean time, District 20 officials would like residents to know they still have access to ambulance transportation as support from unofficial-secondary medics remains available.

If a patient is in severe condition requiring transportation and the proper number of medics have not responded within 30 minutes of contacting neighboring entities, Underdahl said a single medic will still be allowed to transport the patient, stating this has had to happen only once since the district’s license was downgraded and is not a violation of state regulations.

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