Glenn County impacted by ambulance shortage

Ambulances; they're the vehicle we depend on whenever there's an emergency situation.

Posted: Nov 20, 2019 9:13 AM
Updated: Nov 20, 2019 10:55 AM

WILLOWS, Calif. - Ambulances, they're the vehicle we depend on whenever there's an emergency situation.

A Glenn County fire chief now says response times will be even slower in the county.

The Willows Fire Department said they are helping their neighboring county, Colusa by sharing one of their ambulances with them, resulting in the long wait for help.

Action News Now spoke with people who live in Glenn county about how they feel about this reduction in services.

"There's going to have to be given and take in both sides," said Becky Biggs, Willows resident.

"There's no reason to ever use an ambulance in two cities," said James Marshall, an unhappy happy resident.

Many people living in Willows are not happy about the county's decision to share an ambulance with Colusa County.

"That obviously is already going to take a stressful situation and make it more stressful in terms of ambulance needs and the system in general," said Wayne Peabody, Willows fire chief, and Interim City Manager.

Peabody said the mutual aid with Colusa County is going to slow response times in Glenn County.

"Moving from point A to point B and getting the care that you need is a priority," Peabody said.

Peabody said Colusa County has only one ambulance right now for the county. That covers 25,000 people. Glenn County will now share one of the two they have now.

James Marshall lives in a rural part of Glenn County and said he's flat out frightened.

"A lot of people are expecting within minutes to get some kind of response," Marshall said. "If they don't get it, this could be a life or death situation because of the sharing."

Becky Biggs has lived in Willows her whole life.

"Anything can happen to anyone at any time and it is scary that response times will be so long you don't know what could happen," Biggs said.

Peabody said the problem is a lack of Medi-Care and Medi-Cal reimbursements for private ambulances.

"When the ambulance bills for services there's a set amount that is reimbursable and what is not and over the last few years. They have been reduced considerably. Our ambulances are not able to make a profit margin anymore," Peabody said.

"Honestly I would think it wouldn't be so privatized," Marshall said. "I would think you should have a non-privatized ambulance of its own."

However, Peabody said there might be a solution in the form of a tax measure in the local election.

"And what that's going to look like it's going to be probably a tax measure on the 2020 ballot," Peabody said. "What we're going to look for is to put paramedics on the fire engine, which means three additional staffing. The ALS gear. Which specifically means we will always have that ALS gear for our county."

Marshall added that it would depend on how this is all done.

Action News Now has reached out to Enloe Medical Center for comment, they have not responded. Enloe Medical Center is one of the ambulances Glenn County uses. 

Peabody said it costs $700,000 a year to run an ambulance, something the county or city can't afford right now.

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