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By David Knopf, News Editor
They’re shiny new rides, ones you’d probably rather look at than need.
Ray County Ambulance District recently modernized its fleet with four new ambulances acquired through a lease-purchase plan for around $200,000 apiece.
Three of the four retired buses – that’s public-safety talk for an ambulance – sit in the pasture behind district headquarters. They’re not really out to pasture but up for sale, Chief Mac Rogers says, just like the one that was already purchased for fire department use in Norborne.
As a partially tax-funded governmental agency, Rogers said the ambulance district pays for its vehicles, equipment, upkeep and supplies through a combination of property and sales taxes, and as well as user fees it collects from
insurance companies and individuals for transporting patients.
Rogers and Deputy Chief Sam Moppin say the district regularly updates its fleet to provide a high level of service.
“Our goal is to maintain a standard quality of care and by rotating the fleet every five or six years,” we can do that, Rogers said.
The ambulance district was created in July 1984.
The new vehicles are a combination International 4300 chassis, a 235-hp Navistar 4200 diesel engine and an ambulance box – the patient area – made by Wheeled Coach. Each rig weighs in at under 20,000 pounds, gross vehicle weight, Moppin said.
The district’s vehicles stay busy with emergency calls and hospital runs. “We’re running around 2,300 runs a year and at least 33 percent of those are hospital transfers,” Rogers said.
That means when you see a Ray County ambulance heading west on Highway 210, it may well be taking a patient from Ray County Memorial to North Kansas City Hospital, or vice versa.
The ambulance district is staffed 24 hours a day, sevens say, and employs 14 full-time and 52 part-time paramedics and EMTs.
In addition to transporting patients, Rogers and Moppin say the district plays less visible roles in the community.
Included in its educational programs, for instance, is job shadowing for Richmond High School students enrolled in vo-tech programs, and Lex La Ray students taking nursing classes. The district also offers classes for first-responder EMTs, in CPR, standard first aid and wilderness first aid.
The district stations an ambulance at all home football games in Richmond, Hardin and Orrick, and has placed AEDs – automatic defibrillators – in every school building in the county.
In addition, the devices – used to control abnormal heart activity with electrical current – have been placed in busy public places such as the Eagleton Center, courthouse and Farris Theatre.
“The idea behind that is that the care can be started while we’re in route,” Rogers said. “There’s nothing worse than calling 911 and having to wait until we’re there when there’s so much that can be done.”
Rogers and Moppin say the district often hosts tours for groups such as scouts or 4-H clubs, and welcomes inquiries about tours from organizations or individuals in the area.
Ambulance district headquarters also serves as a training center for dispatchers, site of Ray County Chiefs Association meetings and an emergency dispatch center during a crisis.
But the heart of the district’s mission is transporting patients when there’s an emergency. Rogers said every emergency or non-emergency run stems from the district’s motto: “No Compromise, No Rationalization, No Hesitation, Run the Call.”
That, Rogers said, means that when a patient needs assistance, help is provided before cost becomes an issue.
“When they call 911, that’s never discussed,” he said. “It’s always after the fact. Our goal is to take care of them first and then have them pay. No one will every suffer, put it that way.”
Rogers said depending on what a patient’s insurance company will cover – or if he or she even has insurance – fees are often adjusted according to financial resources and subsidized through the district’s reserve balance.
When there’s an emergency, the district’s philosophy is care for/ride first, pay for second – with all patients riding in ambulances of the same caliber.
“We think here that you’re going to get consistent service whether you’re the first 911 call or the last one,” Rogers said.