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Paramedic Services Criticized : Emergencies: Firefighters call the county’s assistance inadequate. The ambulance provider disagrees.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Paramedic service for the ill and injured in Ventura County is inadequate, according to a group of firefighters and paramedics who live in the county but work outside the area.

Scott Gould of Fire Service Residents of Ventura County claimed Wednesday that some firefighters who work for the County Fire Department are already trained as paramedics and should be allowed to perform advanced lifesaving procedures.

“Out of all the county fire departments in Southern California, Ventura County is the only one that doesn’t provide paramedic service,” said Gould, who heads the 20-member group.

The county now contracts with Pruner Ambulance Co. to provide emergency service throughout the region. Two other companies provide emergency service in Oxnard and Ojai.

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Steve Murphy, Pruner’s chief administrative officer, denied Scott’s allegations, saying the firefighters are simply trying to create employment opportunities for themselves.

“They are looking for ways to strengthen their job security,” he said.

Scott’s group is holding a news conference in Simi Valley this morning to discuss their charges.

Scott said Pruner is slow to respond to emergency calls and tends to hire young, inexperienced workers who are emergency medical technicians, not certified paramedics. Technicians can administer basic life-support such as providing oxygen, while paramedics can dispense medication and can work directly with doctors, Scott said.

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A certified paramedic for 12 years, Scott said, “I know what level of service they should be providing.”

Murphy said his employees are adequately trained.

Residents in the east county, particularly in Moorpark, have repeatedly complained of slow response time and inadequate care by Pruner. The closest Pruner station is on Olsen Road at the southwest end of Simi Valley.

Other communities in the county, including Oak Park and Fillmore, do not have hospitals and also lack ambulance stations.

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For several months, Moorpark and county officials have been studying how much it would cost to put paramedics in the city’s two fire stations.

A report released late Tuesday found that it would cost the city more than $110,000 a year for the paramedic service, which county fire officials said could be operating by early next year.

“January or February would be the earliest we could get it in place,” said Bob Crim, the county Fire Department’s deputy chief of operations.

Crim said the paramedic report, which was put together by a special committee set up by county Supervisor Vicky Howard, was released late Tuesday and forwarded to the Moorpark City Council.

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“We’re just waiting for them to review the proposal and see what they say,” Crim said.

After receiving the report Wednesday, the Moorpark council decided to pursue the county firefighter-paramedic program in a meeting Friday with Howard.

Mayor Paul Lawrason said the city has budgeted $125,000 to establish a city-based paramedic and ambulance service next year.

The question, he said, is whether it would be better for the city to go ahead with the plan to put paramedics in the city’s fire stations or to accept an offer by Pruner Ambulance Co. to establish a station in the city.

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Pruner, which has seven ambulance stations in the county, has offered to establish service within the city at an annual cost of about $64,000 and with the stipulation that Moorpark provide the ambulance station.

Pruner initially offered to provide the service for $200,000. But Murphy said Pruner was able to lower its bid because it decided that with a new ambulance station in Moorpark, there would no longer be a need to maintain a full station on Olsen Road.

He said some personnel would simply be transferred to Moorpark, which would help reduce operating costs.

Murphy said Pruner provides adequate service to Moorpark, but that if officials and residents want to reduce response time, a station should be established in Moorpark.

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County officials who monitor emergency calls say that Pruner responds to 30 to 40 calls a month in Moorpark. They said 90% of those calls are answered in 10 minutes or less, which meets state guidelines for cities of this size. Of all the calls received, 35% were life threatening, said Barbara Brodfuehrer, administrator of the county’s Emergency Medical Services Agency.

“For the most part, Pruner meets the requirements,” she said. “But then everybody wants shorter response times.”

Murphy said Pruner could have a Moorpark station running within days because it already has the equipment and personnel.

The city of Fillmore also has been exploring the possibility of establishing paramedic service. Fillmore and Santa Paula have ambulance service provided by Pruner but no paramedic service.

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