Memorial Regional Health vows to maintain emergency medical services

While appointed task force explores solutions for county-wide EMS, MRH says they don't plan on making changes at this time

One of the Memorial Regional Hospital ambulances sits in its garage near the hospital.
Cuyler Meade / Craig Press archive

Memorial Regional Health CEO Jennifer Riley told Moffat County Commissioners on Monday morning, July 18, that she wants them to know the hospital is not going to make any changes with its emergency medical services right now. 

“We don’t want to make any changes that are potentially going to diminish services,” Riley said. 

In 2020, a ballot measure to create a special services district to fund a countywide EMS program was voted down in Moffat County. In response to the failed ballot measure, commissioners appointed a task force to explore what a countywide EMS service could look like. 

“If they were going to propose something that we really felt was a good solution for EMS, we would begin to participate in that solution,” Riley added. 

Memorial Regional Health currently pays for and runs EMS service in Craig. Riley said MRH isn’t obligated to make any changes to its EMS program and has no plans to do so.

Riley said she doesn’t believe the public is getting the right message from the task force, and she wants to make sure that commissioners and the public know where the hospital stands on continuing to provide EMS.

“That’s where we are for EMS — we aren’t going to make any changes, and it’s not going to go back to a ballot initiative,” Riley said. 

Riley said Memorial Regional Health has given the EMS task force all the information the hospital could and added that it’s not the task force’s job to audit the way EMS is operating.

“At the end of the day, they are bringing back a recommendation to the county — they are not a management team,” Commissioner Melody Villard said.

Riley emphasized that MRH wants to help provide a countywide EMS solution, but she isn’t suggesting that she has a solution for how to provide faster responses for emergency services to Dinosaur, which is almost a 1.5 hour drive from Craig. 

Commissioner Tony Bohrer said that representatives in Dinosaur want to meet with commissioners about how to move forward. 

According to Riley, the narrative around EMS has gotten twisted and the public appearance has changed over the years. Meanwhile, Riley said, the EMS staff has been keeping their heads down, going out on calls and continuing to do their work in the community. 

“We talk about what EMS costs, but we don’t talk about the other revenue that it brings into the hospital,” Riley said. “And we don’t talk about the service that it provides in the community.” 

Many EMS and ambulance calls end up being patients who are admitted for longer hospital stays, surgeries and additional medical services, which bring in revenue for Memorial Regional Health. But that’s not typically how EMS is looked at, Riley said, adding that EMS has kind of gotten a bad name in the public’s eye. 

EMS has also been getting some new staff, according to Riley. Though the term “travelers” has been thrown around during the conversations about EMS, none of the EMS providers are travelers. Some of the staff live in surrounding communities, such as Palisade, and commute to Craig during their scheduled days. 

When EMS staff are not out on a call, they often provide critical backup support for the hospital. For example, Riley said there was a night recently when the emergency room was incredibly busy and EMS staff helped out in the ER, which was a blessing for the hospital. 

“We can’t make any changes right now and we are not going to make any changes right now,” Riley said. “We are all-in on EMS.”

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