State OK’d EMS plan prior to supervisors’ approval |

State OK’d EMS plan prior to supervisors’ approval

Emily Aughinbaugh, Tribune staff writer

Shrouded in controversy, El Dorado County’s Emergency Services Plan gained state approval June 8, almost two weeks before the county extended Lake Tahoe Ambulance’s contract for a year.

The EMS plan was submitted to the state in 1998, and its approval was necessary for the county to start a bidding process to award ambulance service.

Gayle Erbe-Hamlin, the El Dorado County Public Health director, told the Board of Supervisors and Lake Valley Fire Protection District Board of Directors on July 13 she was waiting to hear from the state EMS Authority before the county could issue requests for ambulance provider bids.

Because Lake Tahoe Ambulance’s contract expired, the board renewed an amended contract with the company for one year, until the county gained state approval and the bidding process could begin.

Erbe-Hamlin said her office had no knowledge of the June EMS plan approval, despite weekly correspondence with the state, until she received a phone call from the Tribune on July 18 asking her to confirm the state approval. Erbe-Hamlin called the state and found out the county had received approval more than a month earlier.

In a letter sent to the county EMS Agency, Richard Watson, interim director for the state EMS Authority, said, “We are aware that your staff has made multiple inquiries with the EMS Authority to stay abreast of the EMS Plan progress. We recognize that the EMS Plan was officially found to be in compliance on June 8, 2000, and that you did not receive notice of compliance until July 17, 2000, postmarked July 14, 2000.”

Despite reassurances from the state and county, Lake Valley Fire officials said this miscommunication is just one of the many setbacks the health department has experienced since Lake Valley first requested a bidding process almost 10 years ago.

“How is that possible?” asked Dave Huber, Lake Valley Fire board member, about the county’s inability to obtain information from the state. “It wasn’t hard to find out. Especially when you think about someone who’s in contact with (the state) office daily, like we’ve been told.

“It’s as frustrating as it gets. On a scale of one to 10, we’re probably at an 11 on frustration.”

Erbe-Hamlin sent a letter to the Board of Supervisors on July 24, acknowledging she did not know about the state approval until July 18.

“Had I known this information on July 13, I would have shared it with the LVFPD Board. And if I knew it prior to the board’s approving the extension to Lake Tahoe Ambulance’s contract on June 20, 2000 I would have shared it then as well,” Erbe-Hamlin said. “I would have no reason not to in either case.”

Supervisor Dave Solaro said the Board of Supervisors only received information on the approval progress of the county’s EMS Plan from the county health department.

However, Solaro met with the Lake Valley Fire Board of Directors last week and assured them the county was doing its best to keep everyone informed.

“I assured them the county and all the staff is moving as expeditiously as possible,” Solaro said. “They’ll receive full disclosure and information as it becomes available. “

Lake Tahoe Ambulance Chief Chuck Staib said his company was not concerned with the miscommunication between the state and county health departments.

“I think the (EMS approval) process has gone more quickly than I had originally thought,” Staib said. “We have no problems with the timing.”

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