POST FALLS - Kootenai County emergency agencies cooperated to roll out a second ambulance in Post Falls that will be manned 24-7, which will result in improved patient care countywide.
Medic 13, which operates out of Kootenai County Fire and Rescue's station on 16th Avenue west of Highway 41, went into service on Monday.
The ambulance has been converted from one that only provided non-emergency transportation during specific hours to one that is ready to respond to 911 calls.
"This will give us the highest level of pre-hospital care possible in the populated areas," said Lynn Borders, chief officer of the Kootenai County Emergency Medical Services System. "We're utilizing personnel and skills to the maximum."
The change, the result of cooperation between KCEMSS and mutual aid agencies KCFR, Coeur d'Alene Fire and Northern Lakes, was made without raising taxes and hiring new personnel due to staff schedule shuffling at KCFR.
KCEMSS contracts with the area's urban fire agencies to staff its ambulances.
Not only will Medic 13 give the Post Falls area a second ambulance and better coverage, it will be another backup for Northern Lakes and Coeur d'Alene. The other ambulance in Post Falls operates out of KCFR's Idaho Street station.
Northern Lakes and Coeur d'Alene already have two full-time ambulances in service, but area agencies need mutual aid from a neighboring district about 25 percent of the time due to the two rigs in a district being on calls at the same time.
"We always welcome another ambulance in the area because we can provide better protection throughout the county and fulfill our mission," said Pat Riley, Northern Lakes deputy fire chief.
KCFR Paramedic Troy Speziale said Medic 13 should also improve response time because oftentimes an ambulance from Rathdrum has been called to Post Falls when the other rig is out.
"Having an ambulance that is five minutes closer can mean a big difference if someone is having a heart attack," Speziale said.
KCFR Chief Warren Merritt said the improvement in service comes despite tough budget times.
"It will improve the level of paramedic care in the county with little or no increase in cost," Merritt said.
Borders said the latest emergency enhancement has been in the works for about four years.
"We've been trying to figure out the pieces to make it work and needed to have the right personnel in each department," he said. "We didn't have the paramedics that we do now and several factors came together."
Borders said the next improvement focus with the area's emergency services will be in the rural areas.
"We have the core area covered well now, but we need to get to outlying areas in a more efficient manner," he said.