Critical condition

Maybell ambulance president says new position is vital to community

The Maybell volunteer ambulance service was formed in the mid-1970s after three children died waiting for an ambulance to arrive in front of the Maybell schoolhouse, said Karen Burley, president of the Maybell Ambulance Service.

That service, which has been in place for almost 30 years, is on the verge of folding, she said.

What will save it, she said, is the Moffat County commissioners' plan to hire a full-time emergency medical technician who will work full-time in Maybell.

Actually, the ambulance service in Maybell already is non-existent most of the time, Burley said.

"There is no ambulance right now," she said. "We've been that way since June."

The service consists of nine volunteers, she said, most of whom work full time in Craig.

This leaves the area uncovered for a large portion of the week, she said.

"We have one EMT Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.," she said.

For 14 days in October, when that EMT's spouse was having surgery in Grand Junction, the area had no coverage, she said.

She said the Craig ambulance had to respond to an accident in the area in October.

They responded to a roll-over accident, she said, and luckily the injuries were not serious.

"We need to think about what will happen if there is no ambulance service in Maybell," she said.

Moffat County Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson has said the person who fills the position will be available full time to answer calls in the area, will handle all of the department's billing and will assist Dinosaur in meeting the requirements necessary to be a transport unit.

Burley, who said she has applied for the $35,000 full-time position, said she thought the commissioners were making the right decision.

"The Maybell ambulance service brought this forward," she said. "We told them this is what's going on and we need your help."

Many of the duties Burley currently handles as president of the Maybell Ambulance Service will be shifted to the full-time position, she said.

"I haven't had a weekend off in 18 years," she said. "I spend my Saturdays and Sundays doing the paperwork trying to keep the Maybell Ambulance service alive and keep it going."

Burley, who works in the Moffat County Social Services Office in Craig, said the volunteers' burden would be lessened when the EMT position is hired.

"I have applied for this job but if I don't get it that person can take care of the day-to-day stuff and I can have my weekends off," she said. "You can't have a full-time job and run an ambulance service at the same time."

Burley commended the effort involved in the community to keep the volunteer service going in Maybell, saying some volunteers have scheduled their work hours around hours that coverage is needed in Maybell.

One volunteer has a job at the restaurant in Maybell and has an agreement with the owner that if she gets a call, she can leave, Burley said.

"It takes the whole community's cooperation," she said. "Without that community, it's hard for us to do our job."

The volunteers do it for the wellbeing of the community, Burley said.

"I've been doing this for 19 years," she said. "I do this because I want the people in this area to have that type of service."

Tom Soos, director of emergency medical services for The Memorial Hospital, said Craig could handle the runs if the Maybell ambulance service were to fold.

But it is the Maybell residents that would be impacted, he said.

"It wouldn't impact us as much as the people in Maybell," Soos said. "It would just take them that much longer to get an ambulance."

He agreed that steps need to be taken if the service in Maybell is going to survive.

"Maybell has been doing this on a volunteer basis for many years," he said. "If they're at a point where they can no longer do it as volunteers, the commissioners need to do what they can to make sure these people get service."

But Soos did question hiring a full-time person to be based in Maybell.

"You're only looking at 20 calls a year," he said. "What is this person going to do the rest of the time? Eight hours a day, five days a week all year for 20 to 30 calls? Is this the financially prudent way to do it?"

Soos said he has four full-time and 15 part-time staff members making about 700 calls per year, or 50 to 60 a month.

He said he has EMTs averaging 50 calls a month who do not earn the wage that the new position in Maybell will pay.

"We're doing 50 to 60 calls a month and Maybell is doing 30," he said. "You need to figure salary versus calls. Should they pay $35,000? That's a little pricey."

But Soos did admit that it was a dilemma and said the commissioners are the ones who take the heat when something goes wrong in emergency medical services.

"It's important that they do help Maybell and keep it going," he said. "(The commissioners) made a good point when they said when stuff hits the fan, they're responsible."

He offered the scenario of Maybell no longer having a service and Craig ambulances being on other calls when an emergency occurs in Maybell.

"If Maybell goes out of business, they're waiting for someone across the Utah line to come in," he said.

While efforts must continue to provide service throughout the county, that service will never be equal in all parts, Soos said. The county's too big.

"It's impossible to get the same level of service everywhere unless you put a helicopter right in the middle of the county," he said. "It's impossible."

Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or jnichols@craigdailypress.com.

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