On life support

Sustainability of EMT crew questioned


One year after Dinosaur's emergency medical technician service got up and running, the service still faces obstacles.

Artesia Fire District Director Debbie Morrill said the EMT service is doing well, despite losing several members during the summer.

The crew now consists of three EMTs and four first responders. Six EMTs previously belonged to the crew.

The crew responded to about 15 calls during the past year, Morrill said. The crew has a physician adviser who covers them under his physician's license to respond to calls.

But the crew can't legally transport a patient, because a physician to cover transportation has not been identified. For most calls, the crew must wait for an ambulance from Rangely to arrive to transport patients.

Karen Burley, former Maybell Ambulance Service director, questioned how long the service would last. After the Moffat County commissioners terminated her job while cutting the 2004 budget, she stopped working with the Dinosaur EMTs, but she has kept track of the crew's activity.

"When I was in there, I felt like we really had a chance to sustain it," Burley said.

"I just don't see it happening."

The Memorial Hospital Director Randy Phelps and Craig Emergency Management Services Director Tom Soos expressed doubt about the Dinosaur crew's sustainability at a Moffat County commissioner meeting Tuesday.

At the same meeting, the commissioners decided to purchase an ambulance from TMH for Maybell, saying that if the Dinosaur EMT crew falls apart, Maybell may need to make long runs to the southwest part of the county.

History isn't in Dinosaur's favor. Commissioner Darryl Steele said the Dinosaur crew has fallen apart several times during his life. Burley said the crew fell apart five times during her time in Maybell.

Part of the problem, Burley said, is that EMT crews are too regulated to be run by volunteers. Her paid position enabled her to provide oversight and make sure the crew followed state rules.

But Burley's departure didn't affect the crew that much, Morrill said. The crew is attending monthly training sessions in Rangely and Vernal, Utah, and it is recruiting new members. One Dinosaur resident has expressed interest in becoming a first responder, and two other people have joined the Fire District, which the ambulance crew is a part of.

Part of the problem is that Dinosaur's population of 300 provides a small pool for EMT members. Many of those people are elderly and can't volunteer to serve, Morrill said.

Artesia Fire District conducted a survey during the summer, and the results, Morrill said, indicated that Dinosaur residents wanted the ambulance crew to transport patients.

The Fire District recently has received two grants from Colorado and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a total of $150,000. Those grants will be used to purchase new lockers at the fire station and renovate the community center.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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