EMS on hold in tiny Annex

By John L. Braese

The Enterprise

ANNEX – Residents of a small town on the Idaho-Oregon border will wait a little longer for emergency medical services.

Annex, population 216, sits on the Oregon side of the Snake River across from Weiser. Most residents of the small town shop and socialize in Weiser and high school students, after completing grade school in Annex, attend Weiser High School.

Until May, ambulance service to Annex was provided by Washington County Ambulance from Weiser.

According to Larry Colella, Washington County ambulance director, the service to Annex has existed for at least 20 years.

In May, the Oregon Health Authority notified the Weiser Ambulance the service and its employees weren’t licensed in Oregon.

“We are not refusing to provide service. We just legally are not able to,” Colella said.

Now, Treasure Valley Paramedics, based in Ontario, serves Annex. The drive of 18 miles takes an ambulance approximately 20 t0 25 minutes. Weiser, listed as 1.3 miles from Annex, takes a drive time of five minutes.

Colella said his department can’t afford to pay the licensing fees and certification costs required by Oregon authorities. “We are already certified, but in Idaho,” explained Colella. “To go through the certification in Oregon is an expense we can’t afford.”

Colella said the ambulance district has contacted the Oregon Health Authority, attempting to work out a solution.

“We are asking for a grandfather clause as we have been servicing Annex for years,” said Colella. “We collect no taxes from Annex, but we are happy to service the town. As it stands now, our hands are tied.”

The problem, according to Jonathan Modie, spokesman for the Oregon Health Authority, is the difference in licensing for the two states.

“The EMS scope of practice defined by the Oregon Medical Board does not match the scope of practice identified by Idaho Department of Health and Welfare,” Modie said.

Modie also said the states have differing requirements for vehicles.

“Oregon’s is more specific than Idaho’s,” said Modie.

Modie didn’t address why Oregon acted now. He also did not answer a question asking if a grandfather clause could be enacted for the service.

“We are taking a look at policies all the time and making changes when needed,” said Modie.

Steve Bishop, the superintendent-principal of 83 students in the Annex School, said the change concerns him and parents.

“Our only saving grace is Weiser Rural Fire still services Annex and some of them are trained in first aid,” Bishop said. “We have a great working relationship with the fire department.”

Bishop said in his last four years as superintendent, no major incidents have occurred. That is not to say there have not been concerns.

“Under the new concussion protocol, we have been calling parents and they have come right away,” he said. “The parents then drive the kids over to the Weiser hospital.”