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Another county ambulance goes down

EMS scrambles to cover with help from Marion

News editor

The hunt for another county ambulance got an unwanted boost in urgency last week when a second unit experienced engine problems while completing a routine run.

Marion ambulance No. 1 was making a nonemergency transport to Newton May 4 when its engine overheated, EMS Director Brandy McCarty said.

“Gene (Winkler) knew there was trouble, so they slowed to 45 miles per hour and were able to safely bring it home,” she said.

The problem turned out to be a cracked head, rendering the vehicle inoperable.

The mishap put the Marion EMS crew into first-responder status overnight, as the second Marion ambulance was stationed in Florence to cover for the breakdown of that ambulance, which had the same engine and the same problem.

“Because of the call volume we had to take the ambulance that Florence had and place it in Marion,” McCarty said.

The move restored Marion to full-response status, but left Florence without an EMS vehicle.

Enter Marion City Adminstrator Roger Holter with a solution. The city had an ambulance in mothballs sitting at the city shop.

“Apparently, it was a 1991 ambulance that, when they took it out of active service, went to the fire department as a personnel carrier,” Holter said.

Thought was given to selling the retired vehicle when space was needed to do a major re-fit of a rural fire district tanker, but instead it went to the city shop.

When Holter learned of the second ambulance mishap, he contacted McCarty and offered the vehicle as a loaner.

“An hour and a half later, Frank Werner had it cleaned out,” Holter said. “It was the right thing to do for citizens.”

McCarty said the vehicle isn’t licensed as an ambulance and can’t be used to transport patients, but it gives Florence EMTs the capability to respond to emergencies with a fully-equipped unit.

“It still has all the emergency lights and everything,” Holter said. “They pretty much just had to put their cases and stretcher in it.”

McCarty met with county commissioners Monday to accelerate the process of getting a replacement ambulance, accompanied by John Pelfrey of Danko Emergency Equipment.

A new unit similar to what the county has could cost between $130,000 and $135,000, while refitting the ambulance compartment from a defunct unit to a new chassis would be less expensive, costing between $85,000 and $90,000. McCarty said this year’s EMS budget includes funds for replacing an ambulance.

Throughout the discussion, commissioners and McCarty emphasized their decision will be influenced by the speed in which a company can provide a solution.

“The people are counting on us to get an ambulance back in service quickly,” McCarty said.

Commissioners asked for bids from Danko and a second company, Osage Ambulances, to be submitted Friday for a variety of options they outlined. In a best-case scenario, a new or refurbished ambulance could be in service within two weeks.

When a replacement arrives, Marion’s retired ambulance will head back to the city shop with new emergencies to tackle. Holter said the vehicle will be outfitted to respond to electrical outages and water main breaks.

“Instead of the guys having to run back to the shop when there’s an event, it will have the collars on it, and their tools on the outside,” he said.

Last modified May 14, 2015

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