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Sirens & Gavels

Fire department axes jailhouse blood draws

The Spokane Fire Department responds to the county jail for calls ranging from diabetic episodes to overdoses.

But it will no longer offer a service it has long provided there – blood draws.

That's because it's considered a nonemergency service, said Assistant Chief Brian Schaeffer.

“It doesn’t fit into our core mission,” Schaeffer said.

With the elimination of a three-person fire engine company at South Hill's Station 9 last year, the department needs to reserve personnel for emergency services, Schaeffer said.

“It’s going to be important for us to stay in service as much as possible,” he said. “We just don’t have the depth in the system to be without a unit for any amount of time.”

Blood draws make up a small portion of the department's responses to the jail; it did about six blood draws from April 28, 2012 to Dec. 26, 2012.

Others can provide the service, including private companies, licensed nurse practitioners or registered nurses, Schaeffer said.

Responding to the jail for the service doesn’t cost taxpayers extra – they pay for the fire department to be available 24/7 regardless - but fire officials are eliminating a lot of the noncritical services they provide in response to budget cuts.

The department will continue to respond to emergency calls for inmates at the jail, and typically sends a three-person company from Station 3, 1713 W. Indiana Ave., if they are in service and the closest at the time of the call.

“Just because they’re incarcerated doesn’t mean they don’t have a right to emergency response if they need it,” he said.

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