Wednesday, July 8, 2020
New Paramedics Battle COVID Hurdles to Improve Emergency Response
It’s a big deal to have Jake Chaney, Erin Griffith and Trey Knox receive their paramedic certifications, said Wood River Fire Rescue Chief Ron Bateman. PHOTO: Ron Bateman
Friday, June 5, 2020


Three new paramedics in the Wood River Valley jumped past COVID hurdles to get to where they are today.

And, thanks to their dogged persistence, Wood River Valley residents are now enjoying an increased level of response to accidents, heart attacks and other medical emergencies.

Engineers Jake Chaney, Erin Griffith and Trey Knox recently completed an arduous 18-month curriculum that culminated with receiving their nationally recognized paramedic certifications.

The already tough journey was made even tougher when the COVID-19 pandemic shut travel down just  as they and Ketchum Fire Department firefighter John Sisko were scheduled to fly to Boston in late March to finish the program.

Fortunately, Ketchum Fire Department Lt. Lara McLean and Wood River Fire Rescue Capt. Bass Sears were able to apply a little ingenuity to help them complete their educational requirements from afar.

“I’m incredibly proud of these three members. Their efforts are paying off every single day,” said WRFR Chief Ron Bateman.

“That’s a huge commitment over 18 months to go to school and work hands-on, and it allows us to up the level of care more consistently” added WRFR Commissioner Steven Garman. “I was an EMT with the Ketchum Fire Department and it involved a lot of hours, a lot of practice. It’s huge that all three stuck with it when it could have been very easy to walk away during COVID. COVID presented a lot more obstacles but they hung in there and came through it.”

These are the most new paramedics Wood River Fire Rescue has ever celebrated at one time, said Garman. And it has enabled the department to improve service.

In December 2019 WRFR averaged 1.51 medics on duty every 24-hour shift. Now the June schedule reflects 2.55 medics per day.

“That jump is astounding and primarily a testament to their accomplishment,” said Bateman.

Beyond just having another “incredibly competent medical professional on duty at all times,” WRFR is responding to calls with a different deployment model, Bateman added.

“The COVID crisis made us better,” he said. “We were able to add a fourth person on duty each day and we separated the crews between our station in Hailey and the one we share with the BLM south of Bellevue. Now that the spread of the COVID-19 virus has slowed in Blaine County, we’ve continued to staff both stations. The citizens we serve, especially those in the southern part of our district, are the direct recipient of an increased level of service.”

The addition of staff also allows WRWF to better manage multiple calls at the same time, Bateman added.

“On four occasions between April 22 and May 6 WRFR received a second call for service while still responding to or managing the first emergency,” he said. “This ability to handle concurrent calls for service is monumental. Jake, Erin and Trey and their families sacrificed a ton to get to this finish line. I am thankful for them every day.”


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