County emergency services coordinator sought

Some emergency service providers say position not needed

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The Moffat County commissioners made a proposal to members of the Moffat County Emergency Medical Services council in a special meeting Monday to hire a county EMS coordinator despite objections from council members.

"This meeting is not about the commissioners digging into your business of providing services to our residents," Moffat County Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson told more than 20 emergency service providers who attended the meeting. "There are broken pieces in the system and we need someone anticipating the situations like the one in Dinosaur."

The situation Dickinson spoke of in Dinosaur occurred in July when a man died of a heart attack while waiting for ambulance services from Rangely to arrive.

Volunteer EMTs in Dinosaur were the first to arrive at the scene, but were not able to transport the man because they were not certified to do so.

Dinosaur volunteer emergency medical technician Carla Roloff, who has said she helplessly sat and watched the man die on the side of the road, said it took the Rangely ambulance service more than an hour to arrive.

In Monday's meeting, Moffat County Emergency Manager Clyde Anderson said while he understood the frustration of those EMTs in Dinosaur, he had not found any proof of it taking the ambulance service that long to arrive.

"It appears this all started with the frustration of the personnel in Dinosaur," Anderson said. "I have not found anything to substantiate that a person waited an hour and a half for this call. The time frame we're looking at is 20 to 23 minutes. I found nothing to fault the Rangely hospital or Rangely Ambulance Service."

A few days after the July occurrence, Roloff told the Craig Daily Press she and other EMTs performed CPR on the man for 1 hour and 10 minutes before emergency services from Rangely arrived.

But Monday Roloff said she did not mean to place blame on the Rangely hospital.

"I didn't read what the newspaper said," she said. "But I didn't put blame on the Rangely hospital. I put blame on the fact that we weren't equipped for the situation."

A few agencies represented in the meeting included The Memorial Hospital, the Craig Fire Department, the Moffat County Sheriff's Department, Colowyo Coal Company, Maybell Ambulance and Dinosaur Emergency Medical Services.

Several representatives from those agencies questioned the need of creating a new position.

Chris Nichols, deputy chief of Craig Fire/Rescue, said he thought the money could be better spent to address the problem in Dinosaur.

"Hiring a staff person in Craig is not going to get them the equipment they need in Dinosaur," he said. "Put some money in Clyde's (Anderson) budget and give money to other parts of the county so they can get the things they need. If the problem is that one incident, let's solve that one incident."

Ron Taylor, chairman of the EMS council, asked the commissioners to hold off on the new hire.

"I would ask you to give us a chance to fix the problems and then you have this paid position to fall back on," he said. "I believe we can get it done if we give them the chance. Sometimes we don't always see a problem like the one in Dinosaur but I'm not sure a paid person would either."

Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos said Moffat County is the second largest county in the state, and said there was a need for someone to coordinate communication between the many different agencies needed to provide residents with proper emergency services.

"We are not questioning the services you provide but we want to make sure we are looking at ways to better serve the residents," she said. "The county would be willing to put additional resources on the table to make sure the flow of information gets out."

Raftopoulos said when instances such as the one in Dinosaur occur the commissioners are held responsible, which is why they would like someone to coordinate emergency management efforts in the county to make sure everyone is covered.

"When something happens in the county, it comes back to these three people sitting right here," she of the commissioners. "I don't care whose jurisdiction it's in, it comes back to us."

Dickinson said he thought there was a need for someone to concentrate on coordinating the efforts of all the entities.

"I want to know if an incident happens it's going to get covered to the best of our abilities," he said. "There are broken pieces in the system. Right now we're just trying to patch the holes and I don't want us to continue down the same path we are."

Karen Burley, president of the Maybell Ambulance Service, is helping Roloff and other volunteers in Dinosaur through the process of getting a physician advisor.

Having an agreement with a physician advisor at a nearby hospital, which would most likely be Rangely, would enable the Dinosaur ambulance service to meet the requirements necessary to transport patients.

Roloff supported the commissioners' idea of hiring a person to coordinate the efforts of the different agencies.

"We need to get this done and I don't have anybody to talk to on the phone who can explain to me how this needs to be done," she said.

The commissioners said they thought a part-time person would be sufficient to oversee the local agencies.

Moffat County Commissioner Les Hampton said no one deserves the blame for what occurred in Dinosaur, but said people should be assured that the county would try not to let it happen again.

"I don't know what happened and I don't care what happened," he said. "But Dinosaur is in Moffat County and Moffat County will fix the problem."

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

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