When it comes to their operation for Porterville, the surrounding area and Tulare County for that matter, those who operate Imperial Ambulance say the service that's needed is provided.
They also stated an ambulance call to a recent fatal hit and run in Porterville was also properly handled. On Friday, Oct. 16, a 15-year-old boy riding his bicycle was killed in a hit and run incident at Newcomb and Olive. California Highway Patrol identified a man as H. Torres, 23, who was arrested. Torres is accused of hitting the teen.
Exeter District Ambulance had to respond to the incident and the driver who responded to the incident, Steve Golden, expressed concern about the operation of ambulances in Tulare County. Golden stated he was covering Lindsay when he was called to the incident.
Those at Imperial Ambulance stated it took Golden six minutes to respond to the incident. They added another Imperial Ambulance was in the Lindsay area but was called to another emergency at the same time.
“The call came down just as it should have,” said Scott Scheer, Imperial Ambulance Director of Operations about the response to the fatal hit and run.
He again pointed as he did in an article that appeared int the Recorder last week that two of Imperial Ambulances, including the one that came from Lindsay, were on emergency calls. He added three other Imperial Ambulances were in the process of making long-distance transfers of patients to other hospitals.
About the situation that happened on Friday night, Scheer said “it's extremely rare but it does happen.”
But he added it's normal for other ambulance organizations in Tulare County to cover other communities not in their main area. He also said Imperial Ambulance can cover calls in the Lindsay Exeter area along with transporting patients to Visalia's Kaweah Delta Hospital.
He noted at 11:30 a.m. on Monday, Imperial Ambulance was actually covering a call in Exeter. At that same time, Lifestar Ambulance from Tulare was covering a call in in Lindsay.
At 1 p.m. Monday, Imperial Ambulance was transferring two patients to Sierra View Medical Center, an ambulance was on the way back from a long-distance transfer to San Francisco and one ambulance was available.
Sean Roberts, the paramedic supervisor, said Imperial does long distance transfers only from Sierra View and only the most serious patients in which life and death could even be an issue are transferred. He added these are patients who are transferred because the medical services they need aren't available even in Bakersfield or Fresno. “These are very sick people,” Roberts said.
Imperial Ambulance also transfers trauma patients to Kaweah Delta because it's a trauma hospital. No matter what the situation is, Scheer said Imperial has the “best interest of the patient' in mind.
Anotherparamedic who works for Exeter Ambulance District, though, said there are simply not enough ambulances in Tulare County. Jeremy Thomas, who did say he has a lot of respect for Scheer, said while the county has been growing, the number of ambulances haven't increased.
He added while such resources as fire stations are added based on population growth that's not the case with ambulances.
“That would be my assertion because of the growth of the population,” said Thomas about there not being enough ambulances. “I believe the residents are underserved.”
There has been a concern if Tulare County is receiving enough ambulance coverage since American Medical Response pulled out of the county in 2016.
At the time it was reported AMR responded to 25 percent of calls in Tulare County. Out of emergency calls in 2015, AMR responded to a third of those calls. And AMR also responded to 34 percent of transports for patients released from hospitals to other facilities or to their home.
At the time though officials stated the remaining ambulance companies would be able to handle the calls, adding only an additional seven calls per day would have to be absorbed in Porterville.
While ambulance service is challenging in Tulare County because it's a rural area, Scheer said Tulare County is properly covered. “For the number of calls, there are enough ambulances.”
But Thomas said paramedics like him are stretched thin and some are stretched thinner than those in the Exeter Ambulance District. “They're working harder than I am,” he said. “They're being stretched even thinner than us. That's what I'm seeing, 2 in the morning, 3 in the morning.”
Scheer, though, said Imperial Ambulance has an excellent record when it comes to the amount of time it takes for its units to make calls. “We have to make a call within a certain amount of time or we pay a fine,” Scheer said.
Scheer said Imperial Ambulance has a 10 minute response zone in which it has to make calls in less than 10 minutes to Porterville and the area one mile outside the city limits. In 2019, Imperial met that standard 98.05 percent of the time and Lifestar was also above 98 percent.
While Thomas said “there's no way of knowing if an extra couple minutes matter. There's absolutely no way of knowing,” everyone involved agreed time obviously matters. “Minutes matter,” said Trent Fiori, president of operations for Imperial Ambulance.
Fiori said his family lives here too and he knows how important it is to provide the best service possible for his and other families. He added in the 27 years he's been in Tulare County, the system operating ambulances in the county is the best it's ever been.