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Cambria fundraises for new ambulance

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As the Cambria Community Healthcare District continues to recover from financial challenges of the past, the tax-funded agency is asking the community for help to fundraise for a new ambulance.

WHAT'S YOUR EMERGENCY The Cambria Community Healthcare District is fundraising to buy a new ambulance to replace one that has amassed more than 220,000 miles from serving the oceanside community. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CAMBRIA COMMUNITY HEALTHCARE DISTRICT
  • Photo Courtesy Of Cambria Community Healthcare District
  • WHAT'S YOUR EMERGENCY The Cambria Community Healthcare District is fundraising to buy a new ambulance to replace one that has amassed more than 220,000 miles from serving the oceanside community.

"Like anything, these fleet assets do get old," said Mike McDonough, the Cambria Community Healthcare District (CCHD) administrator. "We have a fleet of four ambulances: Two that are used on the front line daily, and then two as backups. Typically what we do is take one of the front-lines that's getting up in mileage and we'd rotate it to backup status, and then bring in a new one to replace the front line."

Ambulances cost around $200,000, an amount not accounted for in the district's operating budget for this fiscal year, which is projected to narrowly break even. Total revenue is projected at $1,953,091, and total expenses are at $1,953,071. To afford the new ambulance, the health care district is calling for community support.

"The one that's still here has over 220,000 miles on it, and extensive body rust just from being next to the ocean," said Timothy Benes, CCHD operations manager and paramedic. "With no replacement plan, we're trying to bring the fleet up so it meets the needs of the community."

The district's board set up a 501c3 charitable trust about a year ago, McDonough said, which allows the district to accept donations. A month after initiating a donation request for the new ambulance, the CCHD had raised more than $35,000 as of Jan. 21—17.5 percent of the trust's goal of $200,000.

"We would typically finance a vehicle like that, but if we can put a healthy down payment then ... we won't have to finance quite as much money," McDonough said. "We reached out to the community, and they've been very generous."

He thanked the community for stepping up to help fund the new emergency vehicle.

"We've gotten donations anywhere from $10 on up," he said. "Every little bit helps, no matter what."

McDonough said it will take more than year before the new ambulance can be added to the district's fleet, due to the current shortage of computer chips that go in vehicles. Until then, CCHD has enough backup ambulances to cover the community's needs, McDonough said.

One Cambria paramedic, who requested anonymity because they're employed by CCHD, said the ask for donations is indicative of the health care district's troubled financial past.

"It's unfortunate that it has to be a call out to donations, in my opinion, because of a lack of planning by the previous board," the paramedic said. "If you're a board that runs an ambulance service in a remote area, and you're not allotting funds to replace equipment, then that's kind of negligence. ... To go to the community asking for donations in addition to tax dollars, I can imagine some citizens would raise their eyebrows."

In 2018, financial troubles led CCHD—which is funded through tax dollars and service income from hospital transfers—to reduce the number of ambulance crews on duty at night.

"Several years ago, we operated two 24-hour, seven-days-a-week crews," McDonough said. "As a cost measure, the board at the time decided to reduce that to one 24-hour unit, and one 12-hour unit. So during the day we have two crews on, and at night we drop down to one."

But since then, he continued, "the current board has done amazing work to get that under control and into a much healthier position."

Paramedic and Operations Manager Benes agreed that CCHD's finances are in a better place.

"We've got a board and an administration that's working very diligently to make sure that those problems don't occur again," Benes said. Δ

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