VV Ambulance Company gets new leader

Verde Valley Ambulance Company has a new operations manager.

Only a few weeks before he is to retire as Verde Valley Fire District's assistant fire chief, Doug Longfellow will take the reins of Verde Valley Ambulance Company.

Longfellow will assume the position of operations manager on Sept. 22, replacing the current operations manager, Gail Jones, who is going back to full-time paramedic work with the company.

At a meeting of the Verde Valley Ambulance Company board of directors Aug. 25, the announcement was made that Longfellow will take the helm.

Longfellow has been on the Ambulance Company's board since 1987 and said that he plans to retire from the fire district and work full-time with Verde Valley Ambulance Company.

He said that the company has been under an efficient management system and functions well, thus, little will change, at least in the near future.

"Verde Valley Ambulance Company has an excellent crew and good equipment," Longfellow said. "At this stage, we will just focus on any improvements we can make."

According to Longfellow, VVAC's Jones has been the operations manager since 1989, and has voiced her interest in going back to being a paramedic.

"Gail has done an outstanding job for VVAC," Longfellow commented. "Her heart is really at being a paramedic and she will be going back to shift duty."

Some of the tasks the operations manager performs for VVAC include budget issues, staffing, training, financing and will be on the company's board of directors that is comprised of local individuals.

The fate of VVAC was broached in July during a meeting of the Cottonwood City Council where Cottonwood Fire Department Chief Mike Casson submitted a letter extending an offer to VVAC to merge with the Cottonwood Fire Department.

The city council authorized Casson to prepare a management agreement proposal for a merger.

According to Casson, VVAC had also extended an offer to merge with Verde Valley Fire District as well.

Casson said that at the most recent meeting, VVAC's board had decided to continue operating under a private, not-for-profit standing, retaining its autonomy.

"The board decided to hire someone to be the operations manager — Doug Longfellow," Casson said. "It decided not to contract with Cottonwood Fire Department, so, we will discontinue negotiations in that channel."

Casson added that the merger of VVAC with either a fire department or with Verde Valley Medical Center would probably be addressed at a later date.

"Our concern is, and always has been, to provide the best possible care for the patient and to the community in a cost effective manner," Casson declared. "We will continue to work together, just like in the past, to provide quality emergency medical service in the community and work as a team."

Verde Valley Ambulance Company, a non profit service, currently is staffed with seven full- time paramedics and emergency medical technicians, (EMTs) with a reserve staff of some 22 EMTs and paramedics that is drawn from various fire departments from the Verde Valley area.

Longfellow said that VVAC started about 30 years ago as a volunteer ambulance service for the entire Verde Valley area, and, "It has grown considerably over years," Longfellow added. "They work closely with all the fire districts in the area and offer very strong support of emergency medical systems."

He added that VVAC through the mutual aid system, services Verde Valley, Cottonwood, Camp Verde, Sedona and Montezuma Rimrock fire services.

Emergency response personnel are inter-trained to assist with major catastrophes and provide more rudimentary services like rehabilitation service for fire crews on long incident assignments like brush fires.

Housed in the old City of Cottonwood Fire Department building on Mingus Ave. VVAC has four ambulances, one of, which will need replacing in the near future.

Longfellow explained that the vehicle used as patient transport clocks high-mileage during transport services to Flagstaff, Prescott, Phoenix and Tucson.

"The transport ambulances need replacing every couple of years because they have high mileage on them," Longfellow said.

He added that after his retiring from Verde Valley Fire District, the change to VVAC will be interesting, and, "It will provide good supplemental income," he added. "I'm looking forward to it."

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