Clearwater County Ambulance Service (CCAS) announces the debut of a new ambulance! L to r, back row: Dixie Reilly, Heidi Rickett, Chelsea Browning, Molly Stanley, Tamara Beck, Sharon Barcus, Melanie Price, and Aaron Garcia. L to r, front: Erin Bolon, Darby Zick, and Bridgette Presnell.

Clearwater County’s new ambulance was officially placed into service Sept. 1, The Horton ambulance body is an all-aluminum box designed with longevity in mind. and built to serve the county for many years. Down the road, when the current 2019 Ford F 550 chassis wears out, the body can be placed on a new chassis. The removable unit will save the county substantially in expenses to maintain the vehicle, alleviating the cost of purchasing a whole new ambulance, when the chassis fails.

Darby Zick, Director for Clearwater County Ambulance Service (CCAS) explained that in addition to the department’s savings, largely aiding the county in the ability to purchase the ambulance was the $110,000 grant from the state. 

A committee was formed to determine what the new ambulance would encompass, to include the expertise of MaryAnn McLaughlin, Mike Norton, Dawn Lipke, Heidi Rickett, Mike Gladhart, Ambulance Director Darby Zick and County Commissioner Mike Ryan. Their combined experience played a vital role in the efficiency of the new ambulance.

 “Just one example that was executed upon the suggestion of one of our members, was the ability to begin an IV on either side of the patient without having to pass the instruments over the patient.” added Zick.

The new ambulance will replace one of eight ambulances used within the county. Currently there are four in Orofino, two in the Weippe area, one in Pierce, and one in Elk River. The department will be retiring one ambulance which has had three engines, three re-wirings, and presently has a blown head gasket. “It wasn’t a good ride,” shared Zick.

County seeks new

ambulance director

Other news to report for the ambulance service is the resignation of Darby Zick as the Director, effective Oct. 9, to spend more time with her new family. Eight-month old Huntlee is growing so quickly. She said she felt she had already missed precious time with him that only happens once.

Zick said she will continue to volunteer in the future with CCAS as a paramedic. She explained that unless a paramedic can be available 24/7 for every possible call a department isn’t able to use the ones that they do have.

“Even though I have the knowledge and skill sets for a certified Paramedic, I could only practice as an Advanced EMT (Emergency Medical Technician), as the Director, so I was extremely limited in the service I was able to give back to the community.

“This is why we’ve tried to implement a new program,” said Zick, “With the difficulty of scheduling enough volunteers to cover all the shifts, as well as the limitation of skills we can provide to the community, we have pursued the hiring of four additional full-time positions - two full-time EMT’s and two full-time Paramedics, which would cover the schedule 24/7, as well as a volunteer crew to take any second runs, which happen frequently.”

“With four phenomenal paramedic applicants all anxiously wishing to relocate, we ran into the roadblock of no one accepting the position as they were unable to find housing.”

Congratulations to Heidi Rickett and Dixie Reilly for accepting the full time EMT positions. They have been with Clearwater County Ambulance as volunteers for eight years and five years respectively.

“Once I leave the Director’s position, I’ll continue to support this program, I’ll stand behind it 100%. I think it needs to happen to benefit our community members, providing that level of service, as well as benefitting Clearwater Valley Hospital with interfacility transfers full-time.

Presently there are times when patients have to wait 1.5 hours for an ambulance to come from Moscow to perform an interfacility transfer because our current volunteer staffing makes them impossible for us to do while continuing to provide 911 services. If we were able to make this program work, we could offer Advanced Life Support transfers full time within 15 minutes.”

“Our service is remarkable for doing what we do with what we have. Asking volunteers to put in all that they do is a lot. It’s becoming harder and harder to meet the call volume which is now an average of 1,000 calls a year. This service is so important and money is always a continuing factor preventing us to go full-time, we just haven’t found a way quite yet, to pay for the services.”   

Grant overview

Idaho Community Foundation: $3,200 for 10 airway bags

Idaho Community Foundation: $17,800 education and training

Idaho Pediatric Grant: $2,501 – six pediatric jump kits

Stop the Bleed Grant (STB) - four STB kits each for Orofino Elementary School, Orofino Junior/Senior High School, Timberline High School, Peck Elementary School, Cavendish Elementary School, and Idaho Youth Challenge Academy.

Idaho EMS Bureau Dedicated Grant: $110,733 – ambulance

Idaho EMS Equipment Grant: $7,000 – cardiac monitor/defibrillators

Lewis-Clark Valley Healthcare Foundation Grant: $44,293 for two cardiac monitor/defibrillators

The total amount of grant money awarded for the Fiscal Year of 2019, was $185,527, plus 24 “Stop the Bleed” kits for the district’s schools.

“The one and only reason I took this job is because I care. I care about the community and the people in it and want them to have the best emergency medical care they could possibly have.”

As Huntlee joins the conversation, with his irresistible cooing, she added, “I don’t want to leave, but I have to,” and she reached to draw him near.

I watched them and totally understood.

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