LYNWOOD — Rebuffed by voters who twice refused tax increases to pay for Fire Department paramedics, the city has now turned to a private ambulance firm to provide the service.
The tentative agreement, which still needs to be approved by the county Department of Health Services, would cost taxpayers nothing, according to Fire Chief Ronald Lathrope. But Lathrope said the paramedic service would cost individuals about $130 for each call, the same amount they now pay for basic ambulance service.
In exchange for the upgraded service, Adams Ambulance Service Inc.--which already holds exclusive rights to provide ambulance service in Lynwood--would have exclusive rights to provide paramedics, Lathrope said. The service could start by April 1, the fire chief said.
Lathrope said Lynwood is one of only four Los Angeles County cities that has no paramedic service. The others are Alhambra, Sierra Madre and San Gabriel.
Under Fire Dept. Control
Under the proposed paramedic plan approved by the City Council last week, the Adams paramedics would work under the control of the Fire Department. When a Lynwood resident calls the emergency 911 number for an ambulance, both an Adams ambulance with trained paramedics and city firefighters would be dispatched.
"This is a no-lose situation. The city will get upgraded services and facilities. The opportunity will offer terrific career advancement to (Adams) company employees," said Jerel Jorgensen, owner and president of the ambulance company, which has its headquarters in South Gate.
Adams has provided ambulance service to the city since the early 1970s, Jorgensen said. He said two paramedic units will be available to Lynwood, and 12 employees are undergoing paramedic training that they will complete by March 20. Paramedics are trained at county-approved facilities and are given county certification.
Jorgensen said he hopes that the county Department of Health Services will designate one of the nearby medical centers as a base station for the paramedic unit. This could be either St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, Martin Luther King Jr. General Hospital in Los Angeles or Downey Community Hospital, Jorgensen said.
There are 37 medical facilities designated by the county health department as paramedic base stations in Los Angeles County, according to LaVonne Kamp, paramedic liaison nurse at St. Francis.
"Every city needs paramedics. Some are privately run and some are run by the county. But in any case, the service is needed because of the advanced emergency aid offered," Kamp said.
"Paramedics receive extensive training and they are required to undergo retraining often. They can administer drugs and treat full (cardiac) arrests. They are in constant contact with the base station," Kamp said.
'Foolish to Turn Down'
Lathrope, a staunch supporter of paramedics for his 36-member Fire Department, said that, although he would prefer that the paramedics be city firefighters, he is glad Lynwood would have paramedics.
"I would be foolish to turn this offer down. The idea is to have paramedics," he said.
Members of the Fire Department went door to door in 1981 to campaign for a ballot measure that would have levied a special property tax to pay for nine paramedics. It would have added $19 a year to taxes on a single-family dwelling. Although nearly 60% voted for the measure, a two-thirds vote was needed for passage.
During 1981, opponents had complained that there were no specific provisions guaranteeing that the revenue collected from the special tax would be used strictly for establishing a paramedic squad.
Proponents came back in 1982 with another proposal that included a clause stating that the revenue would be placed in a special fund to be used only for paramedic services. The cost was scaled down to $10 a year for a single-family dwelling. However, voters rejected the proposal again, with nearly 51% approving.