EMS tech to be hired for west end of county

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The Moffat County commissioners have proposed hiring a full-time EMS technician who would be based in Maybell to address recent concerns about emergency medical services in rural parts of the county.

Several members of the Moffat County EMS council say it's a good idea if the services justify

the expense.

"We looked hard at the existing budget," said Moffat County Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson. "And we will commit funds for next year's budget to staff a position in Maybell so we have a full-time person who can assist with Dinosaur and the west end of the county to improve our emergency medical services coverage."

The proposed 2003 county budget, which commissioners are scheduled to adopt today, allows $35,000 for the position.

A full-time position is needed in Maybell because the ambulance service currently in Maybell is run by volunteers who work in Craig during the day, leaving the western part of the county with no first-response coverage for several hours out of the day, Dickinson said.

"There really needs to be a full-time person in Maybell," Dickinson said. "This person can help with training and assist in being a

first responder."

Moffat County Emergency Manager Clyde Anderson said any steps taken to improve emergency medical services in the county are good, but noted that Moffat County, like the rest of Colorado, is in a budget crunch.

"I think it's a great idea," he said. "But the concern is can we afford it? We need to weigh the benefit versus the cost."

The vastness of Moffat County makes for a challenge in regard to emergency medical services, he said.

"We want to explore any new program that will provide better service to the public," he said. "Emergency medical services have been identified as an area that can be improved."

Anderson said an ideal situation would be to have emergency response vehicles scattered throughout the county so response time would be 10 minutes to every location.

"But is it cost effective?" Anderson asked.

Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead disapproved of the new position.

"I still adamantly oppose the commissioners hiring this position," Grinstead said. "They need to analyze if the calls for service justify this expenditure. When departments are being asked to cut back, I question the decision making here."

How to best handle emergency medical calls in the vast western part of Moffat County has been an ongoing issue for months.

Two months ago, the Moffat County commissioners called a special meeting with Moffat County Emergency Medical Services council.

The commissioners expressed concern about what they saw to be a lack of communication between different agencies in the county, and between the EMS council and commissioners.

Several members of the council expressed skepticism at the commissioners' proposal to hire a county EMS coordinator at that time and they asked that they be allowed to fix any problems in the system before the position was filled.

Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos said the council's concern is the reason why the commissioners chose to hire a full-time technician for Maybell instead of an EMS coordinator.

"The EMS council said they could provide the service and said they were dedicated to being better communicators," she said. "We listened to what they had to say."

But Grinstead said any problems with emergency medical services should have been left to the EMS council.

"It's been there 20 years and there has not been a problem before," Grinstead said. "If there's a problem, give them a chance to fix it."

Ron Taylor, a physician's assistant at the Noyes Health Care Center in Baggs, Wyo., and chairperson of the Moffat County EMS council, attended a meeting with the Moffat County commissioners Monday to discuss the new position.

"It's up to the commissioners to spend money how they best see fit," he said. "I think we've come to an agreement on how this person can best be used. I think we can make it work."

The EMS council is exploring several other options on how to better serve the county, including making sure automatic external defibrillators are available to emergency responders throughout the county.

Taylor said Moffat County Commissioner Les Hampton also has advised the council to find out if there are any former EMTs living in rural parts of the county. Others in rural areas might be willing to receive necessary training and would be located throughout the county to provide services when needed, Taylor said.

"It's a widely scattered population in a large geographic area," Taylor said. "The EMS council is trying to come to grips with that and define what the standard needs to be in Moffat County and how we can apply that to everyone. If we get them all to meet the same standard, then we're serving the people of Moffat County."

Dickinson said the county is writing a job description for the position, which will be advertised soon.

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