NORTH POWDER — An ambulance service based in North Powder that often helps with wildfire victims has turned its attention to the still-raging COVID-19 pandemic which, unlike last year’s wildfires, has not yet subsided.
Owned by Chris Arvidson, of Baker City, Med Transport is a privately held ambulance service that responds to calls — in addition to Oregon — in California, Texas, Maryland and New Jersey. Arvidson said he has a pool of 45 paramedics and a handful of emergency medical technicians who can be deployed.
“We have changed the services offered by our service and have been fortunate to send out the experienced personnel to represent our community and our service throughout the country,” Arvidson said in a press release.
In Eastern Oregon, paramedics reside in Enterprise, Baker City, La Grande and Pendleton, Arvidson said.
Sean Cariss, who has worked on fires and disaster-relief assignments with the service, is based in Enterprise. He got started with Med Transport while working part time in eastern Umatilla County and Arvidson called where he was working looking for additional staff.
“I spent a good part of October on an ambulance with him in Central Oregon,” Arvidson said in the release. “He’s a competent paramedic and is currently finishing up his critical-care certifications while on deployments.”
While Med Transport used to chiefly do interfacility transfers, the service got heavily into wildfire relief and, last year, doing vaccination clinics. Of late, Cariss said, he’s been to California and New Jersey doing such clinics.
“They’re all over the place,” he said. “Wherever the federal government asks to have resources sent.”
Med Transport is getting involved with a variety of activities to combat the pandemic. The press release mentioned COVID step-down units that, Cariss said, are field hospitals where lower-risk patients are sent while recovering from the virus when hospitals are at capacity.
“We did see some pretty sick COVID patients, although they’re now on the road to recovery,” he said.
There also are COVID infusion centers, such as in California where the state health authority is trying experimental medication to help with symptoms of the virus, he said.
Cariss said in an interview that he’s only been with Med Transport since September 2020. He’s been living in Enterprise since 2017, primarily working as a paramedic, but also doing wildland firefighting.
“It’s not guaranteed work. It’s contract work,” he said. “It’s hit-and-miss stuff.”
Cariss said it works well since it’s just him and his wife.
“If I had kids, it’d be harder,” he said.
In Eastern Oregon, Med Transport has at least three other paramedics, the release stated. Bruce Cheeseman is based in La Grande, Nick Cripe is based in Baker City, and Mark Lewis is a recently retired firefighter paramedic from Pendleton.
“Some of our medics have done multiple deployments of up to 30 days and some have been out for over 90 days,” Arvidson said in the release.