Back to the beginning: EMS participants are making another attempt to unite the emergency services of the Moffat district
One of the Memorial Regional Hospital ambulances sits in its garage near the hospital.
Cuyler Meade / Craig Press
County residents who originally spoke out against electoral measures to create a health district in the county have reached out to Moffat County officials for assistance in another attempt to unify the county ambulance.
As a result of this first meeting, the groups represented at a special meeting of the commissioners agreed to put together a nine-member task force so that all parties feel represented in the future.
Task force representatives are selected from their respective groups – which include stakeholders such as Memorial Regional Hospital, Craig EMS, Moffat County EMS, and the Maybell Ambulance – along with members and representatives from the north of the county and other regions. This task force is being put together by the commissioners who supported the meeting on Monday. Commissioner Tony Bohrer said the goal is to have it assembled by January.
“If you get too many (task force members) you could hit your head against the wall,” Bohrer said. “If you have too little, it is perceived that there is not enough voice in the conversation. So we want to make sure we have (the right amount). “
Several possible solutions that could replace the current instability of the EMS system in Moffat County were discussed by stakeholders at the meeting called for by former opponents of the electoral campaign. Hospital administrators said MRH loses about $ 600,000 each year to support emergency services, and board members said they weren’t sure how long they could afford to cover that deficit.
Earlier this year, a separate task force made up of hospital officials and others put together Election Action 6A, which proposed a county tax district that would create MRH independence and increase property taxes by about $ 2.5 million to fund the district. 6B would have created a five-person board to manage the funds; three potential members were from Craig, one from Maybell, and one from Dinosaur. The battle for 6A and 6B quickly became one of the more controversial topics of the election season, leading to an occasionally tense Monday meeting.
Now Moffat County is back in first place.
Nichole Becker, who would have been Dinosaur’s representative in the health district, said at the meeting that the emergency services at Dinosaur were still pending after the 6A and 6B defeat. There is no ambulance in Dinosaur, and citizens in need of emergency assistance typically have to wait up to 45 minutes to receive transportation from Vernal, Utah. Under 6A and 6B, Dinosaurs would have received a fully funded ambulance.
“Dinosaur has nothing. We don’t have a local ambulance, ”said Becker. “While some of you have the luxury of sitting here discussing it while you still have an ambulance to serve you, Dinosaur doesn’t. Our ambulance comes from Vernal, not Jensen. You come all the way from Vernal which takes 30 to 45 minutes. It all depends on the weather. If you sit in a residential area and do CPR on someone for 45 minutes, it is ruthless. I just feel like we have to make a little bit of urgency here with the district commissioners and everyone else. Dinosaur has nothing, I just can’t stress that enough. “
Becker also said several solutions to dinosaurs’ needs mentioned at Monday’s meeting had already been discussed to no avail. She said the fire department didn’t necessarily want to deal with emergency medical services, and other Colorado communities like Rangely wanted to charge large sums of money to coordinate care. Becker said Dinosaur currently needs a four-wheel drive ambulance and equipment, and with the rescue workers already certified, they could easily put together a fully functional rescue team.
But it costs money, she said. Maybell is currently receiving taxpayers’ money to keep its services up and running. Dinosaur receives nothing.
The group that opposed Voting Actions 6A and 6B repeatedly mentioned that they were not comfortable creating a special tax district to support EMS. Finally, they said, they hope that the district commissioners – who will be a neutral party at this point – would adopt the plan once it went into effect.
“Can the county afford to fund a nationwide EMS district?” Said Bohrer. “And obviously that answer is no, not in this current state (and) not with anything we could do now. The county budget is about to lose 47% of its budget, so the county cannot take it out. “
The group that organized Monday’s meeting, which was led by Karen Burley, T. Wright Dickinson, Darryl Steele and Dan Bingham, said they were not sure how exactly the nationwide effort would be funded or how much it would cost. That will be decided when the new task force meets to discuss the needs of their respective communities. Steele, who has a long history of organizing and rolling out EMS services in Maybell, said these discussions should be over time, not all at once.
“I’d like to see (EMS data in Moffat County) before we say how much ambulance we need (and) how many people we need to put this together,” said Steele. “I think before we really talk about money, we need to put together a plan that we think Moffat County is acceptable and then see what the cost will be.”
In 2020 there were over 1,800 calls to EMS services in Craig, 42 in Maybell, and 40 in Dinosaur. There are no calls to drive people to medical appointments, said Melissa Doubrava, the coordinator of the 6A and 6B campaigns, at the meeting on Monday. They were emergency calls.
Burley, who co-organized the Citizens Opposed to 6A and 6B campaign with Steele and Dickinson, said district officials should address the issue by appointing and removing board members at their discretion rather than taxing a district where voters decide directly who would be allowed to be on this board.
“We need the oversight of incumbent elected officials through consistent and comprehensive reporting. We need to ensure that meetings are open and, if necessary, record the meetings, ”said Burley. “So our goals: We want to achieve full participation of the public and providers. Our positive results benefit the entire district. We want to avoid the challenges of getting tax increases passed. We all know Moffat County’s tax hike is next to impossible. So we have to find other ways of doing this. We have to create something that incorporates the individualism of each service and protects it for a long life. “