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Lower Valley cities have until mid-March to make decision on ambulance service funding

Claiming they can no longer manage the expense of running the ambulance service, Prosser Memorial Hospital is asking local municipalities to decide whether or not they'll provide interim funding by March 15.

Prosser Memorial Hospital is asking Benton and Yakima counties, Grandview, Prosser and Mabton to sign a one-year interlocal agreement to cover $425,000 in operational shortfalls anticipated in 2008.

"We can no longer afford to operate the ambulance service in its current form without some form of assistance," said Prosser Memorial Hospital CEO Jim Tavary. "While our community partners are sympathetic, we have been forced to re-evaluate the underlying cost structure in order to find a way to sustain basic services."

Grandview is being asked to pay $92,500, Prosser is being asked for $85,000, Mabton is being asked for $10,000, Yakima County is being asked for $22,500 and Benton County for $40,000.

Tavary said that if the municipalities fail to agree to pay, the Grandview ambulance station will close, the workforce will be reduced, there will be a "restricted menu of services," and, as a result, there will be longer response times. The plan will be implemented May 1.

Ambulance Service Manager Mike Schreiner said that the plan will result in almost doubling response times.

The hospital is currently seeking support for establishing two ambulance districts, each in Yakima and Benton counties, that are contiguous to each other. The creation of the districts would require legal formation by the counties and voter approval for funding.

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