Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill sponsored by a 9th District lawmaker Wednesday that will make it easier for two Whitman County towns to continue providing joint ambulance service.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said the new law is a victory for the rural communities of Farmington and Garfield.

It updates a state law that allows rural ambulance-service providers to overcome personnel shortages by allowing ambulance drivers who don’t have first aid or medical training. However, the 2017 law inadvertently left out ambulance services shared by two or more municipalities.

“This bill will allow the continued operations of shared ambulance services so communities like Farmington and Garfield don’t have to turn to other providers farther away, simply because the driver of the ambulance isn’t trained in first aid,” Schoesler said in a news release.

Schoesler’s proposal permits ambulance services established by an association comprising two or more municipalities in a rural area to use a driver without any medical or first-aid training.

“This bill and the state law it updates both work because when an ambulance carries a patient to a hospital, the driver really doesn’t have a role in caring for the patient,” Schoesler said.

“The EMTs in the back really are the persons in charge. The driver simply needs to be at least 18, pass a background check, and possess a valid driver’s license with no restrictions.”

Sandaine may be contacted at kerris@lmtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter @newsfromkerri.