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National Editorial & Columnists

EMS ambulance woes transcend single community

The availability of emergency medical services is a big issue in Oregon, but the region also is affected. Fire district officials are working on a permanent solution. It will be up to voters to support it.

If you live in or near Oregon, the June 17 demise of the Oregon Ambulance Service Inc. should be of great concern to you.

If you don’t live in or near Oregon, it should concern you, too.

So far, several successive temporary solutions have ensured continued emergency medical services to the community.

After economic hardship caused the closing of the 43-year-old nonprofit ambulance service, the Oregon Fire Protection District quickly arranged for other neighboring fire department ambulances to answer calls.

A few weeks later, the district contracted with ATS Medical Services of Loves Park to cover ambulance calls in the Oregon area.

At 120 square miles, it’s a good-sized area to cover.

We’re talking about all of Oregon-Nashua Township, and portions of seven other townships: Pine Creek, Pine Rock, White Rock, Rockvale, Marion, Grand Detour, and Taylor.

So, people who live within the fire district are still covered, should they suffer a health emergency or accidental injury.

The same goes for nonresidents who are in town and find themselves in need of emergency medical services: people who travel to Oregon for employment, or who are in town to shop, to attend an Ogle County Board meeting, to visit parks, festivals and tourist sights, to attend athletic events, and so forth.

A permanent solution will involve the Oregon Fire Protection District’s taxpayers, who for the past 43 years have not had to pay a tax for an ambulance service.

Fire Chief Don Heller said fire district officials plan to place a referendum on the ballot in November or April to ask that voters authorize such a tax, which most neighboring cities and villages have long had on the books.

“Ethically and morally, we need to provide the service,” Heller said.

(Because of the emergency situation, existing fire protection tax dollars are allowed to be used for the next 10 months to pay the bills from ATS Medical Services.)

The upcoming decision by Oregon area residents affects mainly their safety and their wallets, but it also has the potential to impact many others outside the community.

Fire district leaders have done what they can to keep emergency medical services up and running. The rest will be up to the voters.

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