MCKENZIE BRIDGE, Oregon (STPNS) -- MCKENZIE BRIDGE: Despite being in existence for fifty years, upriver residents don’t know the Emergency Action Services (EASE) exists. When they see volunteers responding to medical call or car wreck many people assume they’re seeing a response from the local fire district. They’re not and that’s one of the big challenges facing an organization that was formed in the 1960’s.
“EASE is an all-volunteer, non-tax based organization that has been generously supported by community donations along with numerous State and private grants over the past 50 years,” according to Steve Otoupalik, a paramedic and president of EASE. But that could change, depending on the results of the upcoming November 6th general election.
Voters from Blue River to McKenzie Bridge will find a 5-year levy on their ballots asking for a tax levy of $0.50 per $1000 of assessed value to allow EASE to be absorbed by Upper McKenzie Rural Fire Protection District.
In the past, Otoupalik says the organization’s operating expenses have averaged from $12,000 to $15,000 annually for equipment, supplies, training and insurance. “EASE has been able to sustain operating costs with community donations and a few state and private grants,” he notes. “Due to changes in the City of Springfield Fire and Life Safety rural support and Central Lane Communications dispatch billing, operational expenses are expected to double in 2013.”
The board of directors of both the fire district and EASE agree that donations alone aren’t sufficient to cover all operational costs and fall far short of accumulating capitol funds for medical equipment and vehicle replacement. After looking at the cost of setting up a stand alone Medical Service District, they agreed to ask voters to support a local option tax levy.
If it fails, area residents would have to deal with response times for an ambulance from the Springfield/Eugene area. A call like that averages 45-55 minutes. “Imagine sitting with a loved one having a heart attack or stroke and waiting for almost an hour for advance EMS services to arrive and render critical care,” Otoupalik says.
Currently, EASE EMT volunteers respond to an incident and provide onsite radio communications and emergency medical treatment under the direction of a physician advisor and using Central Lane EMS Protocols. If the medical condition is life-threatening EASE can activate air transport and provide life-sustaining intervention. That would continue un the fire district’s umbrella.
“We’re grateful for the community support over the years of EASE’s existence,” Otoupalik said. “EASE is the only entity of its kind in the county that isn’t attached to a tax base of some kind. But over the years donations for operations have waxed and waned. With the increase in costs it’s become unsustainable.”
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