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ECA Eyes New Partner
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Escalon Community Ambulance is close to signing an agreement that should help keep the local service stable and available to local residents.

ECA Chief Mike Pitassi said they are looking into joining forces with SEMSA (Sierra Emergency Medical Services Alliance), Star Care Values, a non-profit agency with a corporate base in Reno.

“We are partnering with another organization again,” said Pitassi, who noted that he feels the agreement will definitely benefit ECA and its members.

Originally in Nevada, the organization branched out into California when they partnered with Lassen County, and several years ago reached a management contract with Riggs Ambulance in Merced County.

Pitassi added that this past October, the West Side Hospital in the Newman-Gustine area reached out to SEMSA to help with interim management.

“They decided to contract with SEMSA to manage them,” Pitassi said.

The more he looked at the model, the more it seemed like it could fit with Escalon’s needs, Pitassi explained, as the ambulance service has been without a hospital/health services partner since its affiliation with Oak Valley Hospital ended.

“We had talked to the Escalon Fire Department, the Escalon City Council, about how to partner possibly with them,” Pitassi said of seeking to join forces locally in hopes of sharing operational costs. But talks didn’t pan out with either organization, he said, so ECA continued to seek ways to stay a viable organization.

The ambulance service is supported primarily by membership fees, grants and many memorial donations and Pitassi said officials feel a new partnership with SEMSA will help stabilize the fiscal situation.

“We’re small,” Pitassi said of the organization. “We depend on charity, we depend on our members.”

Meetings between Pitassi and representatives of the SEMSA organization went well, he said, with both sides looking to achieve the same goal, maintaining the health of the small service.

“We are a small, rural community ambulance service that needs help,” Pitassi said.

And SEMSA is in the business of partnering to offer that help.

SEMSA officials confirmed that talks are nearly complete, and said once a contract is in place, they will be able to release all pertinent information about the arrangement.

Pitassi said his main goal is to make sure Escalon residents continue to receive the care they deserve from the local service and partnering with SEMSA right now is the best way to insure that happens.

“This is a sound, ethical organization,” Pitassi said of SEMSA, adding that he has been encouraged by the talks and the ECA board is also supportive of the move.

“Nothing is going to change in terms of operation,” he said. “We won’t see staff changes, the people that have been here, will continue to be here.”