From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 5, Number 16 - 12/14/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Health Care Board Needs to be Bold
The County Drift
by Rob Shaul

I applaud the Sublette County Rural Health Care District Board's decision Monday night to accept Dr. Judy Boyle's proposal to become the medical director at the Pinedale Clinic. Dr. David Burnett of Big Piney was especially gracious when he urged the Board to accept Dr. Boyle's offer and put to rest any feeling that Pinedale was seen as stealing a doctor from the south end.

Dr. Burnett went even further and said the doors to the Marbleton Clinic were wide open to Dr. Boyle so she could continue to see her patients in Big Piney. I assume that when she takes over the Pinedale Clinic, she'll open its doors to Dr. Burnett so he can see his Pinedale patients without forcing them to drive to Marbleton.

It's hard to describe the significance of this cooperation amongst north and south end health care professionals. This is a huge shift for the good of the doctors and residents in Sublette County.

The Board wants to give Dr. Boyle a 6-month contract which will take her through the remainder of this fiscal year. Then it intends to offer both her and Dr. Burnett 2-year contracts at the clinics.

The Board needs to be more bold. It should offer one 2-year contract for both clinics. This way Drs. Burnett and Boyle could combine their staffs and for the first time Sublette County could realize the benefits of a united, cooperative, and uniform health care delivery system. I'm confident there would be significant cost savings and incredible improvements in health care service.

But perhaps most importantly, one contract would work to eliminate the north-south animosity that John Linn aptly describes as "always in the corner" of health care politics in Sublette County.

The Board also needs to be bold considering the ambulance services at both ends of the county. The Pinedale EMS has submitted a formal contract proposal for a paid service in the north end. However, as was seen Monday, it raised several concerns about equity with the south end. Most of Monday's discussion along these lines was money. But more important is the training of the EMTs manning the ambulances.

With its contract, the Pinedale EMS guarantees 24/7 ambulance coverage for the first ambulance out. Further, at least one EMT on that first ambulance will be an intermediate EMT.

This won't be the case in Big Piney. While there are intermediate EMTs who belong to the Big Piney EMS, there's no guarantee that one of these highly trained EMTs will be on the first ambulance to leave the barn when the tone goes off.

This means that someone who needs an ambulance in Big Piney may not get an EMT with the same level of training as someone who gets hurt in Pinedale. This isn't equitable.

Further, under the proposed contract, the Pinedale EMS would do its own billing and collect its own ambulance rates. This raises the possibility that the ambulance rates at either end of the county would be different, and that some residents would be paying more for the same service.

I feel we need a paid EMS service in Pinedale. We can't get around it. However, I think the Board should take this opportunity, be bold, and combine the two EMS services at either end of the county and write one contract which will cover both ends. This will take a lot of work, and there will be many obstacles, but in the long run, it's the right thing to do.

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