Confusion swirls around ambulance service in Dinosaur

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Emergencies in Dinosaur could become more drastic after August, potentially leaving those in need of medical care stranded for an hour and a half until an ambulance from Craig comes to their aid.

Rangely District Hospital, which has been running ambulances in western Moffat County for about 60 years, said it would stop providing emergency services because it’s no longer affordable for the district.

That means Moffat County has to come up with a fast solution or the people living west of Elk Springs and south of the Yampa River will have to depend on their own resources to get to a hospital if they don’t get service from The Memorial Hospital in Craig.

“Financially, we can’t do it anymore,” said Bernie Rice, manager for the cardiopulmonary department at Rangely hospital.

Benny Lujan, mayor of Dinosaur, said the residents of western Moffat County are entitled to Emergency Medical Services and that it should come from Rangely.

“I’d like for (Rangely) to work out something with us instead of being so hardheaded about it,” Lujan said. “It’s not just about Dinosaur. It’s about all of us.”

But Rice said it’s not that simple. He said the Rangely hospital has been under financial pressure and said they have lost as much as $25,000 per year by providing ambulance services to Moffat County.

“The number of (ambulance) runs have increased. The amount of money we are losing increased,” he said.

Moffat County had been paying $12,000 to the Rangely hospital to cover runs that were not reimbursed. The town of Dinosaur and Moffat County were supposed to split the bill.

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers said Dinosaur had neglected making timely payments.

Dinosaur “has been very slow at paying their side of the bill. (They) didn’t pay their bill for 2012 until last week,” he said.

Lujan said they had been keeping up.

“We’ve been making our yearly payments,” he said.

People living in Dinosaur pay taxes for TMH, so Lujan said Dinosaur shouldn’t be paying extra money anyway.

“They’re taxpayers of Moffat County. But (they’re) not close to the county seat,” said Jennifer Riley, chief of organizational excellence at TMH. “There’s not going to be an easy solution.”

Mathers said he is willing to negotiate with the Rangely hospital.

“If Rangely wants more money to perform that service, we should sit down and talk about it. But I don’t want to get held up. I want to pay our fair share,” Mathers said.

After decades of trying to find an effective way to resolve this problem, Rice said those at the Rangely hospital came to the conclusion it wasn’t their responsibility to take care of western Moffat County.

“Right now, we’re saying ‘We’re done.’ This is not a ploy. This is not a trick of us coming with hat-in-hand asking for more money,” he said. “Our taxpayers are subsidizing this. We have to put all our resources into our own.”

If Rangely can’t provide these services, it is unclear who could.

Riley said people living in western Moffat County can’t realistically turn to Craig in a medical crisis. Even with emergency vehicles, Riley said it still would take more than an hour to get out to Dinosaur or western areas along U.S. Highway 40.

“We got a lot of elderly people that live in Dinosaur, and that hour and a half won’t work,” Lujan said. “It’ll be a tough one to swallow if we lose someone because of that.”

Moffat County Commissioner John Kinkaid said it is the county’s responsibility to come up with a plan.

“We need to figure out something that’s going to work for everybody,” he said. “We can’t have people getting injured and there being no way to get them to a care center or hospital. No ambulance services after Aug. 31 is not acceptable.”

Kinkaid said he prefers the county taking the lead and having Dinosaur run its own ambulance service.

Rice agreed and said Craig had even donated an ambulance to Dinosaur in the early 2000s.

Lujan didn’t know about the donated ambulance but didn’t even think that option was workable because of lack of funds and volunteers.

“Where we stand financially, no,” he said. “The problem is getting all the nurses.”

Kinkaid said he is optimistic about addressing this issue. He said redistricting is a possible fix. If Rangely got taxes from western Moffat County for the hospital, they could run EMS in that area. But it would take a vote from Rangely and Moffat County.

“I think Moffat County is willing to work out a solution,” he said. “We’re looking for a spirit of cooperation to make it right for people living in western Moffat County who need ambulance services.”

Rice said that he isn’t opposed to working with Moffat County to find a way the Rangely hospital could continue providing ambulance services, but that he can’t handle the current expenses.

“If you can’t afford it, your agency goes down the tube,” he said. “This is not a decision we take lightly. We’re sorry it came to this.”

Comments

pkrangely 1 year, 2 months ago

Well that ends the age old debate of what is a life worth, $25,000. After all the numbers I have heard thrown around in the last four months, that is pretty minimal. Or is it that living in Dinosaur is punishable by death? Get a grip folks and get to the table and work this out.

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David Moore 1 year, 2 months ago

Well now......looks like we have a better use of money burning a hole in the pocket of the commissioners, like the ridiculous notion of building a 10,000 seat amphitheater, or building a clinic for their own employees. How about seeing if any folks out there are interested in becoming EMT's and then provide them with free training at the community college as an incentive, you do not need nurses (as the article implies) to run an ambulance, you do need a willing medical director however and hopefully one of the good doctors of our community would step up and take the reigns. If they have an ambulance, and it runs and can be stocked, all it would take is 8-10 people interested. They in turn would be able to take patients to the Rangely hospital, which I am sure Rangely would be just fine with since they are now making money, after all, money is what it is all about, forget life and limb. Running a crew from Craig is not going to work, especially in a trauma situation, the "golden hour" is up halfway to the scene, then you have to get back to the hospital, a 4 hour trip minimum. This has been a proven theory for years now and unfortunately, even with transfers from crew to crew, people still have not made it simply because of the sheer miles of "outback" in our county. How about Ashley Valley Medical Center in Vernal? If they would come on board all their crews would have to do is become certified in Colorado, not much really. Just a thought, and only 20 miles away. That may be a longshot but worth looking into Whatever the solution, it must be dealt with quickly, fate is an unknown and all it will take is one death and there will be a lawsuit against the county for not providing proper medical attention. Is that something this county really wants to deal with? I would hope not. Do something actually worthwhile to your people instead of throwing money away on things not really needed. That is something that if I were a commissioner I would want to be remembered for, not some unneeded amphitheater or clinic.

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hixinstix 1 year, 2 months ago

Vernal crews don't have to be Colorado certified if they are already NREMT's. Problem with using Utah hospitals for ambulance is insurance/Medicare etc reimbursements. Time for our illustrious commissioners to step forward and make this right. The citizens and visitors of western Moffat County deserve a resolution. I agree with David Moore.....this situation provides a much better use of county funds than an amphitheater.

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firstofthefallen 1 year, 2 months ago

The people of Dinosaur should at least be able to use the Tom Mathers Amphitheater as a place to hold memorials for their lost loved ones at a reduced fee. That's a way to give back to the community.

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hello81625 1 year, 1 month ago

This is not a new conversation or problem. Rangley has been hinting to the county for two years now that this was coming - why haven't the commissioners been working on a plan already- Oh I know because they NEVER attend the county EMS council meetings so that they have a clue as to what is going on. Where is our County Emergency Manager in all of this? Yes - Dinosaur can operate its own ambulance, as they have in the past - but they will need assistance from the Hospital and County to do so and it will take financial backing as well. A BLS service would be adequate and only requires EMTs that can be certified in 6-9 months (less if the county is willing to pay for an excellerated program). I hope this conversation stays out in the open and does not return to closed doors. There are MANY qualified and talented people in the area of EMS who have been shut out of EMS in the County by TMH - these people I am sure have many creative and viable solutions to offer.
The county contracts with a County wide Medical director so that base is already covered and TMH has at least one ambulance sitting collecting dust. Seems to me this should not be that difficult to fix - however, I am sure it will be.

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