EMS task force seeks data at 1st meeting
Proposals to fund and sustain emergency services will depend on numbers like call volumes, response times and types of services needed across the county
Members of the county’s new emergency services committee met for its first meeting on Monday night to discuss the initial steps toward a solution to fund and sustain rapid-response emergency services across Moffat County.
Committee members agreed that gathering data on the volume of emergency calls would be crucial before deciding potential revenue streams and precisely what services to provide. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, members are gathering data from the past five years — to see what that volume looked like pre- and post-pandemic.
“We need to analyze the data. Because right now, we don’t have the numbers to make those decisions,” committee co-chair Dan Bingham said Monday. “I don’t want to go backwards, I want to make sure that everybody has the same amount of access to professionals. And to be honest with you, it comes with the price. And a lot of people have to have input on what that price tag is.”
For Craig EMS and the Maybell Ambulance service, that data is more readily available. Since most of that record-keeping is done digitally, the state of Colorado will be able to provide numbers for the county as a whole. To get that data from specific agencies within the county, each individual group is going to have to provide those numbers.
Co-chair Justin Doubrava said that the reporting software through the state has various demographics to fill out when it comes to each call that Craig EMS receives.
“They want race, ethnicity, date of birth, age, gender and then the chief complaint or the reason that they called an ambulance,” Doubrava said. “What was bothering them that day — whether it was chest pain, they broke their leg, etc. That is kind of how they divide it up, and then how (EMTs) returned back to the hospital. Were they returned with lights and sirens, or lights? And (Craig EMS records) the level of care.”
Because the town of Dinosaur uses services out of Vernal, Utah, those data points are going to come from Gold Cross Ambulance, the company that provides emergency services to the state of Utah. Committee member Nichole Becker, who represents Dinosaur, said that residents of the town also call directly to local emergency workers, so that data will also have to be included.
“We’re a pretty small community — we have 300 residents for just Dinosaur proper now,” Becker said over Zoom on Monday. “Everyone has everyone’s cell phone number. So, for instance, there’s an elderly woman who lives just down the street from me, and when she needs a lift assist, she just calls my husband on a cell direct, because he’s a marshal. I’ll put together some numbers from my husband, my dad (also a marshal) and then the third marshal so that you have a little more accurate depiction of what it really looks like.”
In addition to the volume of calls, committee member Karen Burley said that it will be important to look at how many of those calls were “advanced life support calls” (ALS) and how many were “basic life support calls’ (BLS). Most runs are BLS calls, where a patient’s needs call for a basic EMT, but for ALS calls, a paramedic — who has different training and is allowed to perform different procedures — is required. Those calls are billed differently. Burley added that even breaking down what times of the day receive the most calls can help the committee figure out how to staff county-wide emergency services, if that were to arise.
“If we don’t have enough EMTs, how do we recruit them?” Burley said. “Can we do mutual aid with Park Service and the DOW to provide maybe some first responders until an ambulance gets there? I mean, there’s just a lot that we can do to shore up. How can we do that in the county? In Craig, they do a great job, and almost all of the population is here. So (Craig EMS) has a pretty steady idea of what that is. We don’t have that same idea for areas outside of Craig. So we need to look at that if we’re gonna do EMS for the whole county.”
Becker added that response times should also be a major part of the discussion. For residents in Dinosaur, who sometimes have to wait more than 45 minutes for an ambulance, a call that came in as basic can quickly turn into a more dire situation after waiting.
“There’s an expectation of quality service as quickly as possible,” Bingham said. “And that’s not an unreasonable request. I would like to see us to be able to provide rapid EMS response within a community, no matter where you’re at. Whether that’s Dinosaur, whether that’s Browns Park (or) whether that’s Hamilton. We have a very diverse community, and we need to be sure that those people receive quality EMS services in a reasonable, affordable time.”
Once the committee has that data, it can move forward with deciding how emergency services in the county will be funded. Committee member Sean Durham, who is an accountant, also requested financials for each of the current agencies. Ideally, he said, he would know current sources of revenue and expenses.
“We’re not buying this business, but we’re kind of maybe inheriting this business — if we want to call it that,” Durham said at the meeting on Monday. “If I’m going to buy a business, I want to have an idea of what that economic benefit or cost to me is before I absorb it, so I can figure out where I’ve got to start planning my future budgets for either additions to improve the service or cuts to make a cash flow.”
Currently, there is no set date for the next meeting until all of the data comes in from their various sources. Once that data is collected, members will likely plan meetings for every other week to continue discussions on how to fund sustainable emergency services.
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