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Bonking, freeing up $2M thanks to ambulance district & investing in Ripon and Manteca safety
MDA ambulance
The Manteca District Ambulance location on Airport Way is one of three stations the not-for-profit company operates in Manteca and Lathrop.

My first trip through Tuolumne County included an overnight stay in a Sonora hospital emergency room sleeping on an exam table.

It followed what was an expensive 45-mile ride from just below Sonora Pass at 9,624 feet on Highway 108 to the old Tuolumne General Hospital in Sonora.

I had collapsed on a 90-degree late July afternoon on the fourth day of a seven-day fully loaded bicycling trip at a point above Kennedy Meadows where the pavement pitch in spots  exceeds 21 percent.

I came to as I was being placed in the ambulance after, what was later told by a Forest Service ranger, was a good 50 minutes being passed out on the pavement.

Long story short — although the longer version is pretty interesting, given at one point authorities were trying to secure a Life Flight given they weren’t sure what had happened — the ER doctor said I had the worst “bonking” he had ever seen.

“Bonking” is when your body’s glycogen stored in your muscles and liver is totally depleted.

 It is not pleasant.

And — as I was told — it could have extremely dangerous consequences.

In my case, five IV bags over the course of 12 hours flowed into my veins while being almost completely dead to the world laying on a stainless steel exam table with a small pillow under my head until my ride arrived at the hospital brought me back somewhat.

My insurance carrier told me not to worry as most of the bills would be covered.

So imagine my surprise when I got a $1,250 bill in the mail two months later.

I was told I might get a duplicate of the bill sent to my insurance provider.

But what I received was a bill from Manteca District Ambulance.

Given I had never been to Manteca, I was a bit incensed when I received it in September of 1990.

I called the number on the billing statement and shared with who answered the phone that I had never been in a Manteca District Ambulance.

A minute later after they pulled their statement, I was told I had been transported in a Tuolumne County Ambulance.

MDA contracted with Tuolumne County to provide ambulance service.

Five months after I called Manteca District Ambulance, I moved to Manteca.

For the record, it was my fourth — and last — trip in an ambulance.

Three of those times I ended up on a backboard during a cycling incident — the time on Sonora Pass, when I hit a loose dog while going downhill at 45 mph, and when I slammed into a back of a cyclist who had stopped suddenly in front of a group of bicyclists during an organized ride.

What brings this up is two things.

We take a lot of things for granted.

And we need to insist that basic emergency services are always at least adequate and be willing to pay the price to make sure it does.

First, the for granted part.

Most of us never give much thought, if any, to the fact we have Manteca District Ambulance or MDA for short.

Unless, of course, we need them.

MDA is one of a remaining few private not-for-profit ambulance firms in California.

Depending on the time of day, they maintain four for six units ready to roll in the Greater Manteca and Lathrop area.

They are one of four ambulance providers operating in San Joaquin County.

Two of the others — Ripon Consolidated Fire and Escalon — operate one ambulance apiece in their respective coverage areas.

American Medical Response (AMR) handles calls everywhere else in the county including Stockton, Tracy, Mountain House, and Lodi. The number of rigs they have manned at any given time is 15 to 26.

MDA has one of the best response times in San Joaquin County.

Between Tuolumne County where they have provided contracted service since 1987 and Manteca/Lathrop, MDA handle 20,000 calls for service a year.

The MDA was founded in 1951.

It was started in by a 1951 campaign that provided those that paid less $10 for an annual subscription free use of the ambulance whenever they needed it.

A lot of people bought subscriptions given the only option back then when Manteca didn’t even have a hospital was to wait for an ambulance to arrive out of Stockton.

MDA through the years continued to grow professionally and in quality of care to successfully navigate the challenges of running an ambulance service that are all rooted in financial stability.

And because of that, there is currently no need for Manteca taxpayers to foot a roughly $2 million annual bill for Manteca Fire to be staffed with paramedics.

Firefighters do have basic life support training.

As for making sure we have adequate emergency services, both Ripon and Manteca leaders as well as residents need to step up.

Public safety is clearly under stress within the 55 square miles of the Ripon Consolidated Fire District that is home to 22,000 people.

The current parcel tax election with balloting thru mid-June is not about expanding service and protection. It restores what has been lost in terms of manpower and to make sure that level — two fully staffed fire stations and an ambiance service you can rely on — are there when you, your family, your neighbors, and others in the community need them.

The situation in Manteca is much different but could sooner than later be as dire if city leaders don’t step up their game.

It will likely require a sales tax boost that will be up to the voters.

But in the meantime, the city needs to make jacking up firefighting staffing anyway they can.

Manteca is the third largest city in the county, but it is the second busiest when it comes to fire, accident, rescue, and medical emergency calls.

The response time to emergencies in the rapidly growing southwest Manteca is subpar at best.

The city needs to add an engine company sooner or later.

And they need to start doing it before adding a sixth fire station that should have been in place at least four years ago.

The Union Road station — the closest to southwest Manteca — was built to house two engine companies.

Additional protection designed to prevent what Ripon is now going through can be put in place by adding an engine and staffing it at Union Road while they figure out where, when and how to build the sixth station.

The smart way is to add three firefighter positions a year.

The initial three could be partially funded by reducing annual overtime expenditures by using them to cover illness, scheduled vacation et al, and worker’s comp leaves.

Or they could be placed on a sixth engine company that gives the department the flexibility of adding a shift during targeted times.

When staffing is expanded to six, that would allow two of the three shifts for an engine company to be deployed 24/7.

What should be unacceptable to city voters is Manteca not finding a way to start working toward a sixth company that’s staffed 24/7.

This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at