The Vale City Council tasked Todd Fuller, city manager, to seek alliances with outside agencies if a vaccination mandate by the governor triggers layoffs. (The Enterprise/FILE).
VALE – The city of Vale will attempt to create partnerships with local emergency service agencies if it loses members of its ambulance service because of a state Covid vaccine mandate.
The Vale City Council last week directed City Manager Todd Fuller to explore the emergency service options as the mandate deadline approaches.
The deadline for health care workers and teachers to be vaccinated is Oct. 18. Recently Gov. Kate Brown extended the deadline – from Oct. 18 to Nov. 30 – for about half of Oregon’s state employees.
Saturday, Vale Mayor Tom Vialpando reached out to Gov. Kate Brown for the third time in a letter outlining his concerns.
“As a result of the impending October 18th vaccine mandate deadline, the city’s ability to provide adequate emergency services will be in imminent danger. It will have an enormous effect on our city and outlying community; some emergency calls may have to be prioritized as the workload will undoubtedly increase,” Vialpando wrote.
Vialpando said eight people of 14-member Vale Ambulance Department will resign their volunteer positions rather than receive the vaccine.
“This will leave our Emergency Services department effectively shut down, because it is mostly staffed by area volunteers,” Vialpando wrote.
He stressed in the letter that Vale does not “have an accessible pool of trained individuals available to fill vacated necessary positions if the vaccine mandate is implemented.”
Fuller also said Vale is especially vulnerable with only 38% of his ambulance staff vaccinated for Covid.
“Everybody has been talking about what is going to happen because across Oregon we have multiple cities that will potentially have fewer employees because they refuse to have the vaccine,” said Fuller.
Vialpando said Fuller is tasked to contact other agency service providers such as Treasure Valley Paramedics in Ontario to seek partnerships or a contract in case the Vale ambulance loses many of its employees.
Vialpando said the city would use its remaining Covid money to fund a new contract with an emergency service provider if needed.
“Hopefully it will be enough to cover us,” he said.
Vialpando said city leaders don’t have many choices.
“Unless the governor is going to send us National Guard nurses and medics, this is our only other option,” he said.
Vialpando said the deadline is a serious challenge made more difficult because of the high level of skills emergency service providers need.
“Those types of positons, you can’t just hire them off the street,” he said.
Vialpando said he recently reached out to more than 10 area cities and officials and asked for their plans if a large number of emergency service providers refuse to get vaccinated.
“All I heard was crickets. No response,” said Vialpando.
Fuller said he hopes enough people with the Vale ambulance get approved by the state for religious and medical exemptions.
“I think the exemption forms will save us. I just don’t want to see a call come in and we have to say we don’t have any crew,” said Fuller.
He agrees the vaccination mandate is complicated by the low numbers of qualified people who seek such jobs.
“Any town right now it is an issue to keep fully staffed in EMS, fire especially. It’s a struggle. We recruit all the time for volunteers and there is just nobody there,” said Fuller.
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