Supporting First Responders

Like many industries, our emergency medical services are struggling with staffing shortages due to funding shortfalls and employee burnout. While the issues are most acute at Deschutes 911 and the La Pine Fire District, bigger agencies like Bend Fire are not immune.

The Deschutes County Board of Commissioners has an important role in EMS.

They are the governing body of the Deschutes 911 Service District, and they have oversight of our ambulance service areas.

After the board of commissioners recently voted to give Sheriff’s Deputies additional pay and benefits, Commissioners Adair and DeBone declined to do the same for other departments, including 911. They have also failed to prepare against the increasing risk that the EMS system in South Deschutes County could collapse due to mismanagement.

Oliver appreciates the unique needs of first responders, having been an ambulance-based paramedic before he became a nurse. And as a clinic manager, he understands the challenge of recruiting and retaining staff in our current economic environment, where housing prices are skyrocketing and good jobs are abundant.

That is why Oliver has prioritized first responder retention as a board member at Deschutes Rural Fire Protection District #2, which partners with the City of Bend to jointly fund Bend Fire & Rescue. Since he took office last summer, the District has invested in infrastructure related to job satisfaction, including new mattresses and blackout curtains so firefighters can get sufficient rest between calls on their 48-hour shifts. In April, the rural district and the City of Bend agreed on a bridge funding plan to fully staff Station 306 (at Pilot Butte) until a new operating levy can go before voters in 2023.

As commissioner, Oliver would collaborate with stakeholders like fire districts, healthcare providers, and insurers to lower the burden on our police, fire, and EMS professionals. There is no shortage of good ideas. For example, Colorado Springs launched a Community Medicine Response unit to respond to low acuity calls. And Seattle Fire partnered with Global Medical Response to create a Nurse Navigation program, where low acuity calls can be triaged by a registered nurse, who is trained to guide the patient to appropriate level of care.

Deschutes County residents place enormous trust in our system, believing that when they call 911 help will soon arrive. To maintain that promise, we need leaders who understand the challenges facing our system and who will work collaboratively to overcome them.

We need leaders like Oliver Tatom.