Moffat County Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson says the hiring of a full-time emergency medical services coordinator for western Moffat County is a step in the right direction toward improving ambulatory coverage in one of the largest counties in the state.
But the county sheriff, and recently elected county commissioner, say it's not the answer to providing better emergency medical services coverage, and say the $35,000 salary budgeted for the position is money that could be better spent elsewhere.
"When we met with Maybell's ambulance service in August, what they expressed to us was a growing crisis in not being able to fully staff the service," Dickinson said. "They were concerned about having enough people to respond when they get a call. They told us things were going from bad to worse."
The biggest concern was daytime coverage, he said, during which time most of the volunteers hold jobs in Craig and are not available to answer calls in the Maybell area.
"There were 14 days in October when they did not have enough EMTs on hand if the ambulance was called," Dickinson said.
If a situation arises, the ambulance service in Craig would have to respond, he said.
"In all the conversations we have had Craig has said it's unrealistic for us to provide service way out there," he said. "They're stretched thin as well."
Coverage in Maybell will improve with the new position, he said.
"First and foremost this person will work in Maybell and be there to staff during the day when they don't have enough volunteers," he said. "The position is to make sure Maybell's ambulance is staffed and managed so all areas are covered."
Maybell has one volunteer who is in the area during the day, Dickinson said.
With the volunteer person and the full-time coordinator, the two people needed to make a call -- one to drive and one to provide medical services will be available, he said.
The coordinator will also handle all of the billing, Dickinson said. Currently that is done in Craig.
Another priority of the person in the new position will be to aid the ambulance service in Dinosaur, which is working to become a transport service, instead of just a first response team.
"The first and biggest thing this person will have to do is help Dinosaur get up to speed," Dickinson said.
The job description is not yet finished, but Dickinson said the goal is to have the position filled by Jan. 1.
But newly elected county commissioner Darryl Steele, who takes office Jan. 14, has repeatedly said he is opposed to the hiring.
He said the 18 to 20 runs the Maybell ambulance service makes each year does not justify a full-time position.
"There's never been an emergency in which the ambulance did not respond with enough volunteers since it was formed," said Steele, a Maybell resident and former president of the Maybell ambulance service.
"I don't think we need a full-time paid position," he said. "The people in Maybell are very upset that the position is being filled."
The Moffat County Emergency Medical Services council should be allowed to do its job, he said.
"Personally I think the EMS council has done a good job and I think they can continue to handle any problems that might arise in Moffat County," Steele said.
Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead is also opposed to the hiring.
He said tax dollars can be better spent to cure a "perceived problem" in the western part of the county.
"They should set up a line item and pay people per call," he said. "That would better utilize tax dollars."
While steps can be taken to improve coverage in western Moffat County, he said he thinks the commission is working toward an unfeasible goal.
"The commissioner's goal to have a response time in all of the county equal to that in Craig is unattainable," he said. "This county is too large and too vast."
Grinstead said he came before the commissioners with a proposal three years ago to improve EMS coverage in the county.
His proposal was to have a deputy that is EMT based in an area like Greystone full-time.
But he said the idea didn't fly with the commission.
"They shot that down three years ago," he said. "I'm not asking the board for more deputies. I'm saying existing deputies could be relocated out there."
Grinstead said he did not understand the sudden urgency to have a new position in Maybell.
"Three years ago it wasn't a problem," he said. "Now all of a sudden it is."
Grinstead said he had a theory on why that is.
"I don't understand what the rush is other than a political promise to someone for employment," he said.
Hiring a full-time person won't solve what Grinstead said he sees as the problem in Maybell.
"The main complaint I've heard is there's no one there to staff the ambulance," he said. "The situation may be because of the leadership that is there."
When discussions first began about two months ago about a need for improved coverage in Moffat County, the commissioners proposed to the EMS council that a county-wide EMS coordinator be hired to improve communication between emergency services in Moffat County.
The proposal was met with skepticism by the EMS council, and Dickinson said because the area lacking was western Moffat County, the commission decided to hire a person whose focus is that area.
"What we were doing in the beginning was understanding that there was a need in the west end of the county," he said. "We were thinking this person could assist everywhere, but we recognize the east end is taken care of. We realize the problem is in the west end of the county."
Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.