From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 5, Number 5 - 9/28/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

The Pinedale EMS Meeting

After people blew their steam off at the Pinedale EMS meeting Monday night, and positions and problems were identified, a solution emerged to hopefully solve the coverage crisis facing the Pinedale ambulance service. And yes, this is a crisis. The sole purpose of the Rural Health Care District is to provide 24/7 emergency medical care for the residents of Sublette County. If we can't get an ambulance ride to the hospital, the District isn't doing its job.

First, it's not money. The Pinedale volunteer EMTs don't want more compensation; they want more help.

Second, it's not too few volunteers. The hours the Pinedale EMS can't cover are 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. Most volunteers hold full time jobs. Gary Wilson said at the meeting that even if the Pinedale EMTs' ranks swelled to thirty people they would still have problems answering emergency calls during the work day, simply because it's difficult for people to leave their jobs to man the ambulance.

Here's the problem: Volunteer EMTs (no matter how many) can't cover the workday call hours, from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. Someone needs to be paid to cover this time period.

While he was misunderstood, and upset a lot of people, Jim Greenwood did the right thing at the beginning of Monday's meeting by offering a motion which said the Health Care District would not hire salaried EMTs and be responsible for managing them. Most at the meeting, including me, initially thought Mr. Greenwood and the Board were against paying full-time EMTs in any form. As he explained later, Mr. Greenwood explained that wasn't true; both he and Chairman Dave Racich would support a contract for services for paid EMTs, they simply didn't want to become employers. This would be a nightmare.

Mr. Greenwood, Mr. Racich and the medical directors at the two clinics deserve credit for developing a possible solution - contracting out a paid EMT service to cover the work day with the doctors at the medical clinics. Dave Doorn's suggestion to create a committee to fine tune contract proposals was a solid one, and raised the possibility that the Sublette Center could also throw its hat in the ring to contract out for this service in Pinedale.

Mr. Doorn's committee is to report back to the Health Care Board with contract proposals on October 9th. I predict that contracts for paid EMTs at both ends of the county to cover the work day call times will be signed at that meeting.

A few comments about how people conducted themselves at the meeting. First, it wasn't nearly as hot as many past Health Care meetings. Chairman Racich deserves credit for keeping it under control, and allowing people to speak.

I was very impressed with the way the Pinedale EMTs conducted themselves. Several times they had punches thrown at them, and for the most part they turned the other cheek and stayed on message. Very professional and genuine.

Jim Greenwood was also impressive. He stated his position - which made some people mad, but he didn't stop there. He came into the meeting having done his homework, and throughout never stopped looking for a solution.

Initially, Garry Eiden Sr. seemed bent on picking a fight with the Pinedale EMTs and Gary Wilson in particular. This was uncalled for. But to his credit, Mr. Eiden eventually let it go, and remained silent for the last half of the meeting.

Finally, Walt Bousman looked like a deer caught in the headlights. He should have fought at being made to abstain from voting on EMT matters simply because he's an EMT. Unless it impacts his pocketbook directly, Mr. Bousman should have a vote on EMT issues. It's likely that many residents voted for him because he was an EMT. I encourage him to seek an opinion from the County Attorney.

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