Is there another ambulance service in Craig? |

Is there another ambulance service in Craig?

The answer is yes, but its operator says there’s no way it could handle the volume that would be required without the MRH service or a Health Services District

The sign above the entrance to the Emergency Department at Memorial Regional Health in Craig.
Cuyler Meade / Craig Press

As questions continue to swirl around a ballot measure in Moffat County that would create a new taxing district to fund a county-wide ambulance service, one common question has a fairly definitive — if complex — answer.

Is there another ambulance service in Craig?

The answer is yes. But the complexity arises in the answer to the subsequent question.

If voters rejected the Health Services District and Memorial Regional Health had to scale back or eliminate its ambulance services, could that other ambulance pick up the slack?

The answer, according to the man who runs the ambulance in question, is no.

The Moffat County Office of Emergency Management, which is directed by Todd Wheeler, owns and operates a state grant-funded, state-of-the-art ambulance, which is stationed in Craig. It’s staffed by on-call volunteers and is primarily a backup option in the event that the two MRH crews are both occupied or a regional agency needs assistance.

But, Wheeler said, should MRH have to cut back, or worse, eliminate the service it says it operates at an annual loss of $600,000, that would not leave Craig in a good place.

“If they decide they’re going to shut it down, that’s going to leave basically Maybell Ambulance and my crew to handle calls,” Wheeler said. “We do not have that capacity.”

On top of sheer manpower issues is the level of care that can — or, in this case, can’t — be provided by the Craig- and Maybell-based crews.

“We can only do BLS (Basic Life Support),” Wheeler said. “I don’t have ALS (Advanced Life Support).”

That means the level of care that can be provided by the paramedics or EMTs at the scene and in the ambulance itself is vastly different.

The Craig OEM ambulance, like the Maybell ambulances, is funded by Moffat County to a tune of about $30,000 a year. Maybell’s budget is similar. The county owns both companies’ vehicles and equipment.

Currently, MRH owns four ambulances, though two were in the shop late last week. The hospital always has one crew staffing the rig and ready to go, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. MRH also staffs another crew that is at the ready during daytime hours and on-call at night. All four ambulances and all their associated gear would be gifted to the Health Services District, were it to pass, according to a hospital spokesperson.

MRH is offering to provide some support services, including billing and human resources, at cost to help the district get started should it pass, but hospital CEO Andy Daniels has said that the hospital is more than happy to stop doing that as soon as those services can be contracted elsewhere. Daniels has also committed to float the district a loan Jan. 1 until tax dollars begin to be available, according to hospital CFO and Health Services District task force chair Sam Radke.

Those decisions and all others would be up to a five-person elected board. There are five candidates for the five seats who will serve in those positions for two or four years. Of those, one candidate is from Dinosaur, one is from Maybell and three are from Craig.

All ambulance service employees would no longer be employees of the hospital, but instead would work for the new district.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Craig and Moffat County make the Craig Press’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.