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Ambulance services combine

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ST. IGNATIUS – Mission Valley Ambulance is in the process of dissolving after being unable to get insurance coverage — which is a positive thing.

“Good things are going to happen and we will have more opportunities open up and more resources,” said Gwen Couture, director of Mission Valley Ambulance.

Polson and Ronan Ambulance Service will purchase Mission Valley Ambulance for an amount yet to be determined to fix that insurance issue.

Tim Brester, owner of Polson and Ronan Ambulance Service, is providing insurance coverage for the Mission service so they can continue to respond to calls while the details are being worked out on the sale, which also allows the service to use their vehicles again.

The Mission crew borrowed an insured ambulance from Polson until insurance could be purchased to cover their rigs.

The volunteers are now paid an hourly wage as employees, although their schedules will remain flexible for now because many of them already have full-time jobs. In the past, the volunteers were paid when a person was transported to a hospital but they didn’t receive compensation for anything else.

Couture addressed the St. Ignatius City Council on Tuesday during the regular meeting. She verified that the ambulance service was being dissolved.

Mayor Charley Gariepy asked her a few questions to clear up things people in the community have asked him. He said people were saying the money from the ambulance service sale was being divided up among the volunteers.

“Not true,” Couture said. She isn’t sure how the money will be used at this time but she said it would benefit the community in some way. She said the crew is leaning towards programs for educating future emergency response personnel but that is only one of many possibilities being considered.

Mayor Gariepy talked about the misconception that the service was part of the city. The ambulance service was actually a non-profit separate entity that rented space from the city for ambulance parking, which was the reason the city could no longer have the service attached to their insurance policy.

Mayor Gariepy said the city attorney looked into the issue and discovered that the town’s policy was for government-related services only and didn’t extend to the ambulance service.

He said the town could be sued if the insurance company refused to pay for an accident. The insurance issue has been cleared up now that Polson and Ronan Ambulance is providing coverage.

During the meeting, the council unanimously voted to allow the ambulance service to continue renting the parking garage until a contract can be worked out with the new service owner.

After the meeting, Mission ambulance crewmember Eldon Umphrey said the sale of the service should be wrapped up by the end of this year. Ambulance services from Polson to St. Ignatius, not including Arlee, are now working as one unified service.

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