SWEETWATER COUNTY — Castle Rock Ambulance Service provided an update on their progress for taking over county ambulance services during the Sweetwater County Commission meeting last week.
In December, it was agreed that Castle Rock would take over providing ambulance services for the county for Sweetwater Medics. This was due to the increasing costs to provide the service and the need for more county subsidies for Sweetwater Medics to continue providing the service.
Since that agreement was made, Castle Rock has been working on figuring out the costs of providing the service, including acquiring equipment and staff to operate ambulances for the county. Castle Rock Hospital District (CRHD) CEO Bailie Dockter said she has spoken with Ron Gatti and Steven Kourbelas of Sweetwater Medics about taking over their services.
“They seem amicable to that and I think they are more than willing to work with us on acquiring assets that we might need,” Dockter said. “We presented to the commissioners a few weeks ago for what we think it will cost for a unified ambulance service and we also submitted our budget request if the services were to stay separated as they are right now.”
The maximum projected cost presented to the commission totaled $1.8 million. However, CRHD Board Chair Dan Stanton said the $1.8 million estimate is a “worst-case scenario” and the goal is to get it down toward $1 million.
“That $1.8 million is in the 98th percentile of the worst case scenario, so I think we’re closer to $1.6 million,” he said.
Dockter said they plan to staff three full-time ambulances to use for the county, with two in Rock Springs, and one in Green River. She added that they plan to be using the dynamic deployment system where if one ambulance gets called out, they send an ambulance to the midway point between Rock Springs and Green River so there’s the same coverage the county has right now.
“The hospital is also discussing with us the possibility of helping with the location of ambulances so we can have an ambulance really close in case a patient needs to leave the hospital,” Dockter said.
Castle Rock Wants to Hire Sweetwater Medics’ EMTs
Dockter also clarified that Castle Rock will definitely be looking to hire EMTs who were previously working with Sweetwater Medics.
“It’s not only an option, it’s an essential. We don’t have endless supply of EMTs and paramedics in our community. These skilled positions are really critical to making the whole system work,” Dockter said. “At the end of the day, we both (Sweetwater Medics and Castle Rock) believe that ambulance doesn’t need to make a profit in this community. We just can’t continue to lose money either.”
Commissioner Lauren Schoenfeld said she wanted the community to be aware of this so residents don’t have to worry about losing EMTs or services.
“I want the community to know that we’re not getting rid of these positions, we’re not getting rid of ambulance, we’re trying to work together to make it more efficient, to make it better for the community. We need our medics, we need our first responders, and we appreciate the work they’re doing,” Schoenfeld said.
Funding May Fall on County Again
As for funding ambulance services, Commission Chairman Jeff Smith said he expects it to fall entirely on the county once again. He said the City of Green River is giving a “hard no” in wanting to participate in funding, and Rock Springs is indicating no as well.
“My feeling is that we’re going to be asked to fund again the entirety whatever decision is made, so I think that, in my opinion… that we’re going to need to make a decision on the contract that comes our way for consolidation and then work on a funding mechanism down the road,” Smith said.
Chairman Smith said there are two possible funding sources from the state government coming later this year for ambulances that they may be able to go out for. One is funding for a pilot program, which Smith hopes they will qualify for with a consolidated service working as a pilot program. The other source is the stabilization fund where the state is giving out funding to keep ambulance and EMS afloat.
However, Smith said that the rules for those have not been written yet and it doesn’t look like the rules will be approved until after June or July, which is after the upcoming budget will have to be approved.
“We’re going to have to approve a budget before we know anything a bout those funds,” Smith said. “We can’t control the cities, we can’t control the funding from the state… so it’s back in our lap. We’ve been here before so we can handle it again.”
Commissioner Mary Thoman said she would like to see the cities step up and help with funding.
“I would just like to challenge our cities to step up to the plate and offer to help instead of being objecting to everything we’re doing…it’s frustrating when you’re trying to get a united plan moving forward when you keep getting ideas thrown from the sidelines but they’re not willing to step up to the plate.”