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Decision to close Grandview ambulance station difficult, but necessary, for Prosser hospital officials

GRANDVIEW - Last night the Grandview City Council heard from Prosser Memorial Hospital acting CEO Julie Petersen and Mike Schreiner of the ambulance service about the decision to close the Grandview ambulance station.

Schreiner said the decision to close the ambulance station in Grandview was made after voters failed to approve the emergency service district levy in November 2008.

"We wanted to close with as little impact as possible," he told council members, stating the ambulance service will save approximately $110,000 annually with the closure.

Petersen said the hospital wants to make the transition a smooth one. She said the hospital and ambulance service would also like input from community members so that needs will continue to be met in the best way feasible.

Councilman Mike Bren asked why the city provided Prosser Memorial Hospital with approximately $100,000 in 2008 if the ambulance service was slated to be closed. "It seems you are saving $100,000, but we paid $100,000," he said.

Petersen apologized if there was a misunderstanding, explaining the money paid by the city was for 2008. She said the funding did not pay for additional years.

Bren countered, stating he did not understand the city would be losing the ambulance station within a year of having paid those funds.

"We knew we would have to make a change, but I apologize again for any misunderstanding," said Petersen.

She said the service area will not be abandoned. The difference between having a station in Grandview and not having one will be a consolidation. The ambulance units will be dispatched from Prosser.

However, one unit will be parked at the Grandview Fire Department during peak hours, according to Schreiner. He said two units will be in operation at all times. When the Prosser Memorial Hospital ambulance is further from a call than Sunnyside Fire Department's ambulance, Sunnyside will respond in accordance with an agreement made between the two services.

Petersen assured the council members that response times will be approximately 12 minutes and those times are within state standards.

She said the building that houses the ambulance service will return to the Port of Grandview's authority on March 1, when the transition takes place.

Mayor Norm Childress asked Petersen what the costs are associated with bringing the station back to Grandview.

Petersen did not know the answer to Childress' question, but said Prosser Memorial Hospital would like to have a station in Grandview again. "If growth and funding are available, we would love to do so," she said, stating the ideal situation would be for the ambulance service to utilize the same building it has been in.

She told Childress she would provide him with data on costs associated with bringing the station back to the city when she meets with council in July.

Petersen also agreed to provide data for the response times "in hard minutes" to better educate the council and voters.

"The decision to close was not taken lightly. A lot of energy went into creative problem solving," she said of the recently failed levy. She commended the council and its efforts in working with other municipalities and the hospital to devise the idea of a service district.

Because those efforts were not approved by voters, Petersen said the ambulance service decision to close was necessary.

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