Moffat County’s EMS saga continues as data exploration expands
The quest to fund emergency medical services remains complex
The ultimate goal of the Moffat County EMS Committee is to make a recommendation to the Moffat County Commissioners on whether they can run emergency medical services in Moffat County effectively and efficiently, or if the EMS tax district initiative needs to go back to the voters to decide.
The EMS Committee met for the third time on Thursday, March 24, to continue the review of data that’s been collected to better understand EMS needs and operations in Moffat County. The primary data includes financial reports and ambulance call numbers for EMS services across the County.
Memorial Regional Health did not have a financial representative present at the meeting to answer questions about EMS finances from the hospital. The committee has agreed to compile a comprehensive list of financial questions for the hospital’s chief financial officer over the coming weeks.
According to financial reports from MRH, EMS services prior to 2018 were either breaking even or producing a profit. Since 2019, EMS services have been operating at a loss. Through this financial review the EMS Committee is looking to understand revenue sources, grants, services, etc.; and how to best manage costs to keep the ambulance service operating in the positive.
“It’s either viable, or it’s not viable,” said Dan Bingham, EMS Committee co-chair.
The revenue and operating costs for EMS services will be determining factors for the future of EMS services across the county and in Dinosaur. If EMS services are not viable under the county, the committee may recommend taking an EMS special tax district initiative back to the voters to decide how to move forward.
The county commissioners are the ones who set the rates for these types of county services. For 911 calls, Moffat County averages $900 per ambulance call versus the State average of $1500 per call. Transfers between medical institutions are where EMS services make most of their profit. These transports are billed at approximately $25 per loaded mile.
Bingham has been reaching out to Gold Cross in order to collect ambulance call data for Dinosaur, but he’s been unable to get a call back from the company, which is headquartered in Salt Lake City. Moffat County commissioners have a memorandum of iunderstanding with Gold Cross to dispatch ambulance services out of Vernal, Utah, for 911 calls from Dinosaur.
“The (actual) numbers will be higher than what Gold Cross can provide,” Bingham said.
Because of Dinosaur’s location, 911 calls are received by either Moffat County, Rio Blanco County, or Vernal in Uintah County, Utah, depending on which cell phone tower the call is routed to.
Instead of calling 911, some residents call local officials in Dinosaur, who call Vernal EMS dispatch directly. When it’s possible, residents drive themselves to the hospital to avoid the long call response times. All of these factors will impact the overall emergency call numbers from Dinosaur on record.
Although Vernal, located 45 minutes drive time from Dinosaur, is not the closest hospital or EMS service, many of the local residents in Dinosaur prefer to seek medical care in Vernal because it houses a larger hospital. Rangely District Hospital is a smaller hospital located approximately 20 minutes away from Dinosaur.
Bingham said the EMS committee may want to explore reopening the door with Rangely District Hospital in Rio Blanco County as another possible solution for EMS service to Dinosaur. In the past, Rangely provided EMS service to Dinosaur, until the entities were unable to agree on a price for EMS services during contract renewal negotiations.
Finding a solution to EMS service in Dinosaur with reduced call response times is a priority for the EMS Committee. Ideally, Dinosaur would have access to a local ambulance and have a trained EMS response team made up of residents who live in Dinosaur.
The EMS committee discussed how, at one point, Memorial Regional Health had offered Dinosaur an old ambulance. One of the barriers to having an ambulance in Dinosaur has been determining a medical institution to provide medical oversight for EMS services.
The licensing for Craig, Maybell and Dinosaur with Memorial Regional Health is being revamped. There was discussion that the state of Colorado will be taking over the EMS licensing for all Colorado counties. One of the benefits to having state oversight would be that billing and payments would be handled by the state. Other impacts of the state licensing in the local area are still to be determined.
Another barrier to having an ambulance service located in Dinosaur would be getting EMT training to local residents. The EMS Committee plans to request time to meet with Colorado Northwestern Community College to discuss options for providing EMT training for Dinosaur.
Nichole Becker, Dinosaur representative for the EMS Committee, wasn’t present at the meeting but has said that local leaders have already identified several residents who are willing to complete EMT training. Becker and other local leaders are also working to get an EMT trainer certified so they can train all of the fire district volunteers in EMT response.
According to Moffat County assessor Chuck Cobb, the town of Dinosaur had a combined assessed property value of $1,234,003 in 2021. Those living within the town of Dinosaur, in tax area 13, pay a total of $29,479 to the county in taxes. Tax area 12, which includes the Southwestern area of the county excluding the Town of Dinosaur, was assessed at $2,367,054 and pays a total of $56,546 in total taxes to the county.
The combined total taxes paid to the county from this area are $86,025. This includes all taxing entities; residential, commercial, industrial, agriculture, and state assessed. The total amount of countywide property taxes received by the county from all tax areas is $10,191,162, so taxes paid from Dinosaur and surrounding areas are less than 1% of overall taxes received by the county.
Residents of Dinosaur and surrounding communities still contribute approximately $10,802 per year to the Public Hospital Fund Mill levies that were passed in 1988 and 1989. However, most residents in Dinosaur do not utilize medical services in Moffat County due to the lack of proximity. Residents of both of these tax areas contribute $69,723 in the county general fund.
“We’d just like to have some of our tax dollars back that we’ve paid for years and years and never got any through the hospital district,” said Richard Blakely, mayor of Dinosaur, during an interview earlier this month with the Craig Press.
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