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Orange County Rescue Squad OK'd to resume work

Posted November 29, 2008

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— The Orange County Rescue Squad will be back in service Dec. 1 but in a more limited role after a three-month investigation of complaints that the squad's practices endangered lives.

The squad will perform fewer functions to avoid duplicating services provided by the other seven licensed emergency-medical services providers in Orange County, according to a report by EMS Director F. Rojas Montes de Oca.

OCRS will provide service for special events, overflow medical calls and search-and-rescue operations on land. OCRS Chief Brian Matthews said the squad will respond to motor-vehicle wrecks if requested by a local fire department with limited resources.

The squad's ability to conduct motor-vehicle extrication safely was questioned in an earlier report issued by Montes de Oca. OCRS performed that service under its most recent franchise agreement, signed in 2004.

OCRS volunteers defended themselves vociferously against the complaints, saying the incidents cited were simply untrue or taken out of context.

After a three-month review, Montes de Oca said he and Matthews had come to an understanding.

"Rather than attempting to find fault, both entities have agreed to move forward. Failure existed at both ends of the responsibility spectrum," Montes de Oca wrote in a memo to county commissioners.

EMS officials reviewed OCRS' documentation to ensure compliance with state and local regulations. They also worked with the squad to update mandatory classes, inspect vehicles and facilities and obtain rosters and training documentation.

More change for the squad is on the horizon, OCRS and EMS officials agreed, with the group's franchise up for renegotiation and new state regulations imminent.

Montes de Oca emphasized that the 40-year-old organization has to find a new role in the Orange County EMS network. Part of doing that will be ensuring the group's fiscal health, he said.

"These recent efforts to bring a community asset back in service has illustrated the need for OCES to do a better job of maintaining the fidelity of a system that resembles a quilt of first responders, career and non-career people dedicated to protecting the community," Montes de Oca wrote.

Matthews indicated that OCRS could move from helping in heavy rescues to providing an array of services, including an affiliation with the Civil Air Patrol.

"I was encouraged by Chief Matthews' candor and willingness to explore ways in which OCRS could reinvent itself (and) ... discover new ways to serve the community," Montes de Oca wrote.

"I believe this event has made our unique system stronger through a process of open communication, mutual respect and careful consideration of the needs of community."

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