Long before I started publishing Joshua Tree Voice, I was astonished by the number of incredible efforts from kindhearted, passionate, community-minded people in the greater Joshua Tree area actively doing great things. After several conversations with the team at Morongo Basin Ambulance and a tour of their facility in Joshua Tree, I am once again overwhelmed with appreciation. This humble, yet well-equipped and expertly trained, small army of first responders left me with a renewed confidence in humanity and my potential safety should I ever face a medical crisis in the area. This team is a family unit built to serve its community, and it’s one we can all be proud of.
This year marks the 75th Anniversary Morongo Basin Ambulance (MBA). While it has been here for three quarters of a century, many don’t realize that MBA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that has been serving a 2,700 square mile area of San Bernardino County since its journey started back in 1948. Back then, they were known as Joshua Tree Ambulance, but changed their name to match their service area. They are the sole provider of 9-1-1 emergency ambulance services to the cities of Joshua Tree, Twentynine Palms, Morongo Valley, Pioneertown, Rimrock, Flamingo Heights, Landers, Johnson Valley, Wonder Valley, and Amboy as well as the Joshua Tree National Park, and the secondary provider for Yucca Valley. MBA is called into service when San Bernardino County Fire ambulances are on other calls.
No tax dollars are used to fund this service. MBA operates primarily on reimbursements from Medicare/MediCal and private insurances. No patient is ever turned away due to an inability to pay. “We have many customers who are financially struggling,” shared Rich Middlebrough, President of the MBA Board of Directors. “We willingly work with them to set up a payment plan with which they are comfortable.”
Rich Middlebrough has served on the MBA board for over 12 years. Rich retired from the Newport Beach Fire Department as a Captain in December 2002. He was asked to join the board because he had practical experience, supervisory, and administrative skills. He joined because he wanted to ensure this huge piece of San Bernardino County had the best qualified ambulance personnel and equipment to serve the many high desert cities, towns and adjoining rural communities.
Joshua Tree Voice was invited to tour the facility in Joshua Tree (they also have a station in Yucca Valley located on Sage Avenue, just south of 29 Palms Highway). We were greeted by Operations Chief/EMT-P, Craig Bell. Bell is the son of a firefighter but didn’t feel inclined to follow in his father’s footsteps until a neighbor’s child came to him for help with trouble breathing. Not knowing what to do for the child in that situation moved him to educate himself. In doing so, he found his passion. The unique family unit dynamic that is very much a Joshua Tree community thing has kept him at MBA and proud to be part of keeping the institution alive.
The facility in Joshua Tree includes an office for dispatchers, accounting, and administration, as well as sleeping quarters (on the rare occasion the emergency staff can actually get some sleep). They’re provided with a common area, a full kitchen, and some free weights to help stay in shape when time allows.